President Barack Obama and the Democrats' refusal to negotiate with Republicans on the budget not only caused the government shutdown, but demonstrates they wanted it so they could blame Republicans for it, Sen. Orrin Hatch says.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, the veteran Utah Republican said Obama was the only president in his 37 years in Congress who refused to engage with Congress to resolve a budget impasse.
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"[Republicans] think there's lots of room for consensus, but you've got to get [Democrats] to talk to you ...We haven't had the president engaged, he's the only president in my 37 years in the Congress who just hasn't engaged, and he wants his way above all things," said the Senate's most senior Republican and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee.
"This is a dark moment in our nation's history and our citizens have every right to be disappointed in their government."
Hatch said he believed there is room for consensus, but if the Democrats won't even consider talking to Republicans, that agreement can never be reached.
"I don't see how you can help but blame the Democrats for not opening the door and talking to us," he said.
Hatch said Republicans have offered a number of concessions to try to reach a budget deal, none of which were debated or even considered by the Democrats. Among them, he said, is the proposal to delay Obamacare for a year. He said the proposal was based on the view of the American people that the healthcare law is not "ready for prime time," and a concern that the program would be highly vulnerable to fraud.
Hatch went on to say that while he doesn't know how long the shutdown may last, the threat of the United States defaulting on its debt is a more significant matter.
"Presidents should work with Congress to stop fiscal impasses like this. Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton all negotiated over raising the debt ceiling, and ultimately included budget reforms. President Clinton and then Speaker Gingrich negotiated over the last government shutdown back in 1996," he said.
"This president is unwilling to do it, the Democrats are unwilling to do it. They said take their position or leave and they've basically wanted this shutdown so they can blame Republicans for it."
He concluded by saying, "This is a time for real leadership from the president and the Senate Democrats, and once again, they're missing in action. The American people deserve better and I hope that they realize that it isn't Republicans that are causing this problem."
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Hatch is uncertain when the shutdown will be over. "I suspect that it's going to go on for a little while. Maybe three or four days. Who knows? Maybe more than that," he said, blaming Democrats' intransigence which is likely to spill over into debate about raising the debt limit.
"When you start talking about the debt ceiling, that means you're going to default on the obligations," he said. "Why wouldn't they be willing to sit down and discuss this with the Republicans and with the Democrats, too? There are some Democrats who are unnerved by all of this but they are rigidly forced to vote with the Democrat leadership which is not willing to negotiate, not willing to sit down, not willing to do anything.
"Frankly, it's very frustrating," Hatch said.
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