Transcript: President Barack Obama’s press conference on the government shutdown & debt ceiling – Oct. 8, 2013 – Part IV

Part IV of VI: Transcript of remarks by President Barack Obama on the government shutdown and debt ceiling. The press conference was held on Oct. 8, 2013.


President Barack Obama:
We have used a lot of our emergency powers. Jack Lew has used extraordinary measures to keep paying our bills over the last several months but at certain points, those emergency powers run out and the clock is ticking. And I do worry that Republicans – but also Democrats – may think that we’ve got a bunch of other rabbits in our hat. There comes a point in which if the Treasury cannot hold auctions to sell Treasury bills, we do not have enough money coming in to pay all of our bills on time. It’s very straightforward.

And I know there’s been some discussions, for example, about my powers under the 14th Amendment to go ahead and ignore the debt ceiling law. Setting aside the legal analysis, what matters is that if you start having a situation in which there’s legal controversy about the U.S. Treasury’s authority to issue debt, the damage will have been done even if that were constitutional because people wouldn’t be sure. It would be tied up in litigation for a long time. That’s going to make people nervous.

So a lot of the strategies that people have talked about – “Well, the President can roll out a big coin or he can resort to some other constitutional measure” – what people ignore is ultimately what matters is what are the people who are buying Treasury bills think.

And again, I’ll just boil it down in very personal terms. If you’re buying a house and you’re not sure whether the seller has the title to the house, you’re going to be pretty nervous about buying it. And at minimum, you’d want a much cheaper price to buy that house because you wouldn’t be sure whether or not if you’re going to own it. Most of us would just walk away because no matter how much we like the house, we’d say to ourselves, “Last thing I want is to find out after I’ve bought it that I don’t actually own it.” Well, the same thing is true if I’m buying Treasury bills from the U.S. government, and here I am sitting here – “What if there’s a Supreme Court case deciding that these aren’t valid? That these aren’t valid legal instruments obligating the U.S. government to pay for them?” I’m going to be stressed, which means I may not purchase them, and if I do purchase them, I’m going to ask for a big premium.

So there are no magic bullets here. There’s one simple way of doing it and that is Congress going ahead and vote.

And the fact that right now there are votes, I believe, to go ahead and take this drama off the table, should at least be tested. Speaker Boehner keeps on saying he doesn’t have the votes for it, and what I’ve said is put it on the floor and see what happens, and at minimum let every member of Congress be on record. Let them vote to keep the government open or not and they can determine where they stand and defend that vote to their constituencies.

And let them vote on whether or not America should pay its bills or not. And if in fact some of these folks really believe that it’s not that big of a deal, they can vote no and that will be useful information for voters to have. And if that fails and we do end up defaulting, I think voters should know exactly who voted not to pay our bills so that they can be responsible for the consequences that come with it.

Mr. President, you mentioned the Supreme Court. The term started today with a campaign finance case that picks up where citizens United left off. You’ve called Citizens United devastating to public interest. So I was wondering if you could weigh in on this case?

President Barack Obama:
Well, the latest case would go even further than Citizens United. Essentially it would say anything goes. There are no rules in terms of how to finance campaigns. There aren’t a lot of functioning democracies around the world that work this way, where you can basically have millionaires and billionaires bankrolling whoever they want, however they want, in some cases undisclosed. And what it means is ordinary Americans are shut out of the process.

And Democrats aren’t entirely innocent of this in the past, and you know I had to raise a lot of money for my campaign – so I – there’s nobody who operates in politics that has perfectly clean hands on this issue.

But what is also true is that all of us should bind ourselves to some rules that say the people who vote for us should be more important than somebody who’s spending $1 million, $10 million or $100 million to help us get elected because we don’t know what their agendas are. We don’t know what their interests are.

And I continue to believe that Citizens United contributed to some of the problems we’re having in Washington right now. You know, you have some ideological extremists who has a big bankroll and they can entirely skew our politics. And there are a whole bunch of members of Congress right now who privately will tell you, “I know our positions are unreasonable” but we’re scared that if we don’t go along with the Tea Party agenda or some particularly extremist agenda, then we’ll be challenged from the right.” And the threats are very explicit and so they toe the line. And that’s part of why we’ve seen a breakdown of just normal routine business done here in Washington on behalf of the American people.

And all of you know it! I mean, I’m not telling you anything you don’t know because it’s very explicit; you report on it. Now, a big chunk of the Republican Party right now are in gerrymandered districts where there is no competition and those folks are much more worried about a Tea Party challenger than they are about a general election where they’ve got to compete against a Democrat or go after independent votes. And in that environment, it’s a lot harder for them to compromise.


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4 Comments on “Transcript: President Barack Obama’s press conference on the government shutdown & debt ceiling – Oct. 8, 2013 – Part IV

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