President Barack Obama slammed “extremist” Republicans affiliated with the tea party Friday for threatening a government shutdown, calling on the House to vote to keep the government open and quickly pass a clean bill raising the debt ceiling thereafter.
The American people have worked too hard “to see extremists in Congress cause another crisis,” the president said.
Obama began his statement Friday saying that he had just spoken with Iranian President Hasan Rouhani — the first such direct communication with the nation since 1979 — in hopes of reaching a negotiated settlement on that nation’s nuclear program.
The president took time at the end of that announcement to say he is prepared to negotiate with Republicans over the nation’s finances, but he made clear he wouldn’t do that with the threat of a shutdown or a potentially catastrophic debt default looming in a couple of weeks.
He reiterated that he would not gut his signature health care law, and said that while he is interested in ideas Republicans may have to improve it, he won’t take them up under the threat of a shutdown.
“House Republicans will have to decide whether to join the Senate and keep the government open or shut it down,” he said.
Obama warned that the “grandstanding has real effects on real people,” including military personnel who will not get paid on time and loans that will be frozen.
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, criticized the president for not negotiating with Republicans and accused him of “grandstanding” as well.
“The House will take action that reflects the fundamental fact that Americans don’t want a government shutdown and they don’t want the train wreck that is Obamacare,” Buck said. “Grandstanding from the president, who refuses to even be a part of the process, won’t bring Congress any closer to a resolution.”
Obama has not called Boehner this week, according to a GOP aide.
Obama, meanwhile, warned that failing to raise the debt ceiling would be far worse, even though no one knows the total repercussions because no Congress has forced a default in the past.
“Voting for the Treasury to pay America’s bills is not a concession to me,” he said. “That’s not doing me a favor. That is simply carrying out the solemn responsibilities that comes with holding office up there,.”
Obama made it clear that he was taking a stand on the issue not just for him, but to avoid setting a precedent for the future.
“No one gets to hurt our economy and millions of innocent people just because there are a couple of laws you don’t like,” he said.
He asked Republicans to imagine their positions reversed, with a Democratic speaker demanding a 40 percent corporate tax increase or background checks on guns in exchange for not tanking the economy.
“Anybody actually think that we’d be hearing from Republicans that that was acceptable behavior?” he asked.
He also noted that the stopgap spending bill would merely keep the government open until Nov. 15.
“We could be doing this all over again,” he lamented. “I’m sure the American people are thrilled about that. . . . We’ve got to break this cycle.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.