Obama to GOP: End The Shutdown, Then Let's Talk

By: CBS NEWS (Posted by Josh Mabry)
By: CBS NEWS (Posted by Josh Mabry)

WHITE HOUSE (CBS NEWS)-- President Obama on Tuesday said he's willing to sit down and talk with Republicans over anything they wish to negotiate after they re-open the government and drop the threat of letting the nation default on its loans, if only for a few weeks.

"I will not eliminate any topic of conversation, and I've shown myself willing to engage all the parties involved, any leader on the issue," Mr. Obama said from the White House press briefing room. "The only thing I will say is that we're not going to pay a ransom for America paying its bills. That's something that should be non-negotiable."

After eight days of a government shutdown, with the deadline to raise the nation's debt limit less than two weeks away, Washington has found itself incapable of overcoming their partisan disagreements. The stalemate stems from the Republican Party's insistence on dismantling or delaying parts of the Affordable Care Act as part of these fiscal policy matters.

Some members of Congress have suggested at least passing a short-term bill to keep the government funded for just six weeks, giving them more time to negotiate. Mr. Obama said he would "absolutely" negotiate with Republicans, even if Congress only passed a bill to re-open the government for another six weeks.

The president slammed the conservative members of Congress who are using government operations and the threat of default as bargaining chips, remarking, "The greatest nation on Earth shouldn't have to get permission from a few irresponsible members of Congress every few months just to keep our government open."

This level of political dysfunction "hurts our credibility around the world," Mr. Obama said, noting that he has missed critical meetings in Asia because of the government shutdown and the looming threat of default. "It makes it look like we don't have our act together, and that's not something we should welcome."

The president argued that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, could end the government shutdown immediately by putting a no-strings-attached budget bill up for a vote on the House floor. Until Boehner does that, Mr. Obama said, "there's going to be a cloud over U.S. economic credibility."

Passing a no-strings-attached bill would take a bipartisan vote. As of now CBS News estimates that 214 House members, including all Democrats and 14 Republicans, would support such a bill, meaning the votes are almost there, but not quite.

Boehner on Tuesday morning insisted that Democrats and Republicans should sit down for negotiations without any preconditions -- before re-opening the government.

With no end to the stalemate in sight and in a bit of theatrics, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Tuesday called for all members of the Senate to report to the floor, in order to initiate an open conversation about the importance of solving these issues. Once on the floor, Reid called the shutdown "an embarrassment to our nation." He noted the significant impact it has had on government services; for instance, the Pentagon says it no longer has authority to pay death gratuities to the survivors of servicemembers killed in action.

"The families of five U.S. servicemembers who were killed over the weekend in Afghanistan have been notified that they won't receive their benefits," Reid said. "The families who lost five loved ones, it's an unbearable loss, but now they're being denied death benefits because of this senseless shutdown. It's shameful and embarrassing, there are no words to describe this situation."

Earlier in the day, Reid pointed out Democrats have already made a major concession to Republicans by agreeing to the low spending limits that the GOP wanted. "He can't take yes for an answer," Reid said, referring to Boehner. "I don't know what else is left to talk about. All we're asking is that government be re-opened."

Still, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor that Democrats must take Republican demands seriously.

"We now have divided government it means that we have to talk to each other and get to an outcome," he said. "I think it's far past time to get that done, and I hope given where we are today that there is adequate incentive to get those talks started principally between the majority leader and the speaker to get us to the outcome that we all want and to get us there soon."

While the shutdown has had negative impacts, the consequences of failing to raise the debt limit would be far greater, Mr. Obama warned Tuesday. The Treasury Department has told Congress that it has until Oct. 17 to do so before the U.S. risks defaulting.

A few Republicans in Congress, however, have downplayed the impact of defaulting. Mr. Obama on Tuesday called this "irresponsible, out of touch with reality, and based on a flawed analysis of how our economy works."

If the nation defaulted, every American could see their 401k and home values fall while borrowing costs for mortgages and loans would rise, he said, running the "risk of a very deep recession."

Mr. Obama refused to even entertain a question about what financial obligations the nation would prioritize if the Treasury ran out of enough money to pay them all.

"I am going to continue to be very hopeful that Congress does not put us in that position," he said. "No option is good in that scenario."

Some have suggested the Treasury could keep interest rates from soaring by paying bondholders, even if that meant forgoing payments to other obligations like Social Security. Mr. Obama rejected that theory.

"If the markets are seeing we're not paying all our bills on time, that will affect our credit worthiness," he said. "There's no silver bullet, there's no magic wand that allows us to wish away the chaos that could result if, for the first time in our history, we don't pay our bills on time."

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