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Boehner: Obama's Position 'Just Not Sustainable'

By    |   Tuesday, 08 October 2013 11:32 AM EDT

House Speaker John Boehner said on Tuesday that President Barack Obama's refusal to negotiate with Republicans on reopening the government or extending the nation's debt ceiling was "not sustainable."

"The president's position — 'Listen, we're not going to sit down and talk to you unless you surrender ' — is just not sustainable," the Ohio Republican said at a late-afternoon news conference at the Capitol. "It's not our system of government."

Boehner noted how the House has passed four bills to temporarily finance the government — "and all of them were rejected by the Senate. They've refused to act."

He called his Tuesday morning conversation with Obama “pleasant” and said that he agreed with him on the issue of debt ceiling.

"We should pay our bills,” Boehner said. “I didn't come here to shut down the government. I certainly didn't come here to default on our debt."

But, over the past 30 years — at least 27 times — "the debt limit has been used to carry significant policy changes that would reduce spending and put us on a saner fiscal path," he said.

He noted how Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton negotiated spending reductions in talks with Congress in exchange for raising the nation's borrowing authority.

And during debt-ceiling talks in 2010, "when Democrats controlled Congress and President Obama was in the White House, a group of moderate Democrats in the House would not agree to raise the debt limit without a negotiation," Boehner said. "There was a negotiation then among Democrats over raising the debt ceiling.

"There's going to be a negotiation here," the speaker said. "We can't raise the debt ceiling without doing something about what's driving us to borrow more money and to live beyond our means.

"The idea that we can continue to spend money that we don't have, and give the bill to our kids and our grandkids, would be wrong.

"This is not about me and this is not about Republicans," Boehner added. "This is about saving the future for our kids and our grandkids. The only way this is going to happen is if we, in fact, have a conversation.

"It's time to have that conversation. Not next week, not next month. The conversation ought to start today — and I'm hopeful, whether it's the president or Democratic leaders in Congress, that we can begin that conversation."

Earlier Tuesday, Boehner renewed his call for deficit-reduction talks with Obama, saying he was not "drawing any lines in the sand."

In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Obama acknowledged calling Boehner to tell the Speaker he would not hold talks under the threat of a debt default or of keeping the government shut.

"I'm not going to negotiate until some of the extreme parts of the Republican Party stop forcing John Boehner to issue threats over our economy," he said. "The government should not have to pay a ransom for Congress to do their jobs.

"Let's lift these threats from over our families and over our businesses and get down to business."

Obama warned on Tuesday that a U.S. debt default could wreak havoc and he would talk to congressional Republicans about any topic but urged them to raise the debt limit without conditions.

"As soon as Congress votes to reopen the government, it's also got to vote to meet our country's commitments, pay our bills, raise the debt ceiling," Obama said. "As reckless as a government shutdown is, the economic shutdown caused by America defaulting would be dramatically worse," he added.

Related: Scarborough Says Reid Should 'Do the Job He Was Hired to Do'

In a statement, Boehner blasted President Obama's comments at the news conference.

"President Obama has offered every excuse in the book to justify his refusal to negotiate with Republicans on the debt limit, but perhaps none is more absurd than his claim that doing so would be 'unprecedented,'" Boehner's statement read.

"It’s time for the president to stop talking to the cameras and start a conversation with Republicans on a path forward on the debt limit, government funding, and protecting all Americans from his disaster of a healthcare law.”

Obama blamed “a few irresponsible members of Congress” for creating a threat that puts the economic recovery at risk.

He declined to say whether the government would set priorities to pay holders of U.S. government notes first over paying Social Security recipients or members of the military if Congress refused to raise the federal debt ceiling.

“I’m going to continue to be very hopeful that Congress does not put us in that position,” Obama said. “We are exploring all contingencies.”

The president repeated that he is willing to negotiate with Republicans only if they agree to reopen the government and raise the nation’s debt ceiling without conditions.

“We can’t afford these manufactured crises every few months,” he said. “We can’t make extortion routine as part of our democracy.”

Of the president's press conference, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who chairs the House Republican Conference, told Fox News: "I didn't hear anything new today. The president said that he won't negotiate unless it is on his terms.

"No one is talking about holding hostage the American economy," the Washington Republican said. "All the Republicans are asking is that we sit down at the table to negotiate and find some common ground."

Earlier, Boehner said there's never been a president who won't negotiate on debt limit. In fact, he said, he negotiated with Obama in the debt ceiling in 2010.

 “You know, Americans expect us to work out our differences. But, refusing to negotiate is an untenable position. And frankly, by refusing to negotiate, Harry Reid and the president are putting our country on a pretty dangerous path," Boehner said.

“Listen, there’s never been a president in our history that did not negotiate over the debt limit. Never. Not once," he added.

Urgent: Should GOP Stick to Its Guns on Obamacare? Vote Here.

“The way to resolve this is to sit down and have a conversation to resolve our differences.”

Republicans emerged from the House meeting saying they would insist that deficit-reduction talks with Obama as a condition for raising the federal debt limit.

A senior House aide said Republicans are considering legislation to create a new panel to find deficit reductions similar to a failed 2011 "supercommittee" of Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate that was asked to find trillions of new budget savings.

In his press conference, Obama rejected the idea because he is skeptical it would create any new momentum.

"There is already a process in place called the budget committees that could come together right now," the president said. "That's a process that's worked reasonably well for the last 50 years. I don't know that we need to set up a new committee for a process like that to move forward."

Related: Republicans Slam Obama, Lew for Threats of Default

Senate Democrats plan to introduce a bill this week to raise the government's borrowing authority by enough to last through 2014 in an effort to avoid a fiscal default that could have a disastrous economic impact.

The measure, which must be discussed among Senate Democrats at a luncheon meeting on Tuesday, would not contain any of the deficit reductions that Republicans have demanded, a Senate Democratic aide said.

Both sides are searching for a way to resolve a fiscal standoff that has shut down the federal government for eight days, with a critical date for raising the country's $16.7 trillion borrowing limit approaching in nine days.

House Democrats, speaking to reporters, said they would reject the creation of such a panel. They want the government to reopen and the debt limit raised before entering any deficit-reduction negotiations.

The Senate Democratic aide said Democrats were hopeful they could get the 60 votes needed to overcome procedural hurdles in the 100-member Senate and pass a debt ceiling bill with no strings attached.

The measure would likely run into opposition from Senate Republicans such as Ted Cruz of Texas, who has been leading the drive to make delaying Obama's healthcare law a condition for raising the debt ceiling.

Considering the procedural roadblocks it could face, aides said they need to begin work on the legislation well before Oct. 17, when Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said the government will run out of borrowing authority.

Urgent: Should GOP Stick to Its Guns on Obamacare? Vote Here.

Newsmax Writer Todd Beamon contributed to this report.

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House Speaker John Boehner said on Tuesday that President Barack Obama's refusal to negotiate with Republicans on reopening the government or extending the nation's debt ceiling was "not sustainable."
Tuesday, 08 October 2013 11:32 AM
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