WASHINGTON (AP) — This time, President Barack Obama says, he's not budging. This is the confrontational Obama, the “Make my day” president, betting that Republicans will blink to avoid a government shutdown or a first-ever default of the nation's debts.
It's a proposition not without risk and one with a history of last-minute accommodations on both sides. Brinkmanship between Obama and congressional Republicans has often stopped at the precipice's edge.
In this round, however, Obama and his aides maintain that when it comes to raising the government's borrowing authority and meeting its debt obligations, there's no bargaining. To conservatives wishing to undo the 2010 health care law in exchange for what traditionally is a routine increase in the nation's credit, Obama on Friday said bluntly: “That's not going to happen.”
“I don't know how I can be more clear about this: Nobody gets to threaten the full faith and credit of the United States just to extract political concessions,” Obama said in a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room.
Still, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says a debt limit increase must be linked to budget cuts and other changes in programs.
“The president says, 'I'm not going to negotiate,' ” Boehner said. “Well, I'm sorry, but it just doesn't work that way.”
Obama's stance is rooted in experience, politics and a desire to protect himself from similar demands in the final three years of his presidency.
Obama advisers noted that past negotiations have not yielded grand bargains and that the mere threat of default in 2011 rattled the economy, causing a downgrade in U.S. credit. Talks earlier this year to avoid automatic spending cuts also failed.
Obama aides also noted that eight months ago Boehner himself declared an end to negotiations with Obama, favoring the regular legislative process.
That process has proved messy for the GOP, and senior White House aides insist that in a standoff, Republicans will be perceived as the unreasonable party. The White House is convinced any concession would place the president in the position of having to bargain again and again when the next debt ceiling looms.
“I'm not going to start setting a precedent, not just for me, but for future presidents, where one chamber in Congress can basically say each time there needs to be a vote to make sure Treasury pays its bills, 'We're not going to sign it unless our particular hobby horse gets advanced,' ” Obama said Friday.
The Pew Research Center found, however, that nearly 6 out of 10 Americans want the politicians they side with to be more willing to engage in talks.
And the public was split about evenly in Pew's poll on who would be responsible if the government shut down, with 39 percent blaming Republicans, 36 percent blaming Obama and much of the rest blaming both sides.
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