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

Part VI 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.

…In the past, you negotiated along with the debt ceiling with the Blue Dogs in 2009 and 2010 the Pay As You Go reform…the Republicans today are talking about another committee that would work out our differences over the next few weeks. Is that something you could talk about on the side, something that wouldn’t necessary be a concession but something that could be a format for getting a deal done?

President Barack Obama:
…I know that Speaker Boehner has talked about setting up some new process or some new super committee or what have you. You know, the leaders up in Congress they can work through whatever processes they want but the bottom line is either you’re having good faith negotiations in which there’s good give-and-take or you’re not.

Now, there is already a process in place called the budget committees that could come together right now – Democrats have been asking for 19 months to bring them together – to make a determination how much should the government be spending next year. The appropriations committees could go through the list – here’s how much we’re spending for defense, and here’s how much we’re going to be spending for education, and that’s a process that’s worked reasonably well for the last 50 years. I don’t know we need to set up a new committee for a process like that to move forward.

What has changed – or what seems to be motivating the idea that we have to have a new process – is Speaker Boehner or at least some faction of the Republicans in the House and maybe some in the Senate are holding out for a negotiation in theory but in fact basically Democrats give a lot of concessions to Republicans, Republicans don’t give anything and that’s dubbed as compromise. And the reason that Democrats have to give is because they’re worried that the government’s going to stay shut down or the U.S. government is going to default. And again, you can dress it up any way you want, if that’s the theory that the Republicans are going forward with, then it’s not going to work.

So let me just give you one specific example. I’ve heard, at least, and I can’t confirm this, that one of the idea of this new committee is you could talk about reductions in discretionary spending, you could talk about entitlement reform and reductions in mandatory spending, you could talk about how long you’d extend the debt ceiling, but you couldn’t talk about closing corporate loopholes that aren’t benefitting ordinary folks economically and potentially if you close them would allow us to pay for things like better education for kids.

Well, I don’t know why Democrats right now would agree to a format that takes off the table all the things they care about and is confined to the things that the Republicans care about. So, again, I don’t know that that’s exactly what’s being proposed.

My simple point is this: I think Democrats in the Senate, in the House are prepared to talk about anything. I’m prepared to talk about anything. They can design whatever formats they want. What is not fair and will not result in an actual deal is ransom-taking or hostage-taking and the expectation that Democrats will pay ransoms or provide concessions for the mere act of re-opening the government or paying our bills. Those are not things that you do for me and that there not things you do for the Democrats.

…It’s not necessarily a concession, where you negotiate what the negotiations are going to look like. You don’t have to agree to overturn Obamacare. You can actually negotiate what the talks are going to look like so everybody’s comfortable. And you know – you mentioned yourself that this is a tough vote for all these House Republicans. You’re asking them to take a very tough vote on the debt ceiling. Usually, people in both parties want to have some cover – something that they can point to and say, “I won some budget process reform” or… [overlapping audio]

President Barack Obama:
…which is fine. And so if they want to do that, re-open the government, extend the debt ceiling. If they can’t do it for a long time, do it for the period of time in which these negotiations are taking place. Why is it that we’ve got hundreds of thousands of people who aren’t working right now in order for what you’ve just described to occur? That doesn’t make any sense.

The Small Business Administration gives out $1 billion worth of loans every month to small businesses all across the country. That’s not happening right now. So there are small businesses in every state that are counting on a loan to get their business going and you’ve go the party of small business saying, “Small Business Administration can’t do it.” That’s what they call themselves. And yet, they’re suffering.

You’ve got farmers who are waiting for loans right now. Those loans cannot be processed. The Republican Party says they’re the party that looks out for farmers. I happen to disagree. I think farmers have done real good under my administration but having said that, why would you keep the government shut down and those farmers not getting their loans while we’re having the discussions that you just talked about?

You know, the Republicans say they’re very concerned about drilling. They’re saying that Obama’s been restricting oil productions despite the fact that oil production is at its highest level as it has been in years, is continuing to zoom up. But basically, you know, the Democrats are holding back oil productions in this country. Well, you know, one of the things that happens when the government is shutdown is new drilling permits aren’t processed. So why would the Republicans say to the folks who are interested in drilling for oil, “Sorry, we can’t let those things be processed until we have some negotiations and we have some cover to do what we’re supposed to be doing anyway.” That doesn’t make sense.

If there’s a way to solve this, it has to include re-opening the government and saying America’s not going to default. It’s going to pay our bills. They can attach some process to that that gives them some certainty that in fact things they’re concerned about will be topics in negotiations if my words aren’t good enough. But I told them I’m happy to talk about them.

But if they want to specify all the items that they think need to be a topic of conversation, happy to do it. If they want to say, you know, part of that process is we’re going to go through line by line all the aspects of the President’s health care plan that we don’t like and we want the President to answer for those things, I’m happy to sit down with them for as many hours as they want. I won’t let them gut a law that is going to make sure tens of millions of people actually get health care but I’m happy to talk about it.

[Inaudible]…in the campaign against terrorism and if we’re going to see U.S. military operations all around the continent, how does that square with your contention that America cannot be at war forever?

President Barack Obama:
Well, if you look at the speech that I gave at the National Defense [University] several months ago, I outlined how I saw the shift in terrorism around the world and what we have to do to respond to it. And part of what I said is that we had decimated core Al Qaeda that had been operating primarily between Afghanistan and Pakistan. But you now have these regional groups, some of which are explicitly tied to Al Qaeda or that ideology, some of which are more localized. Few of them have the ability to project beyond their borders but they can do a lot of damage inside their borders.

And Africa is one of the places where because in some cases the lack of capacity on the part of the governments, in some cases because it is easier for folks to hide out in vast terrains that are sparsely populated that you’re seeing some of these groups gather and we’re going to have to continue to go after them.

But there’s a difference between us going after terrorists who are plotting directly to do damage to the United States and us being involved in wars.

The risk of terrorism and terrorist networks are going to continue for some time to come. We’ve got to have a long-term plan that is not just military-based. We’ve got to engage in a war of ideas in the region and engage with Muslim countries and try to isolate radical elements that are doing more damage to Muslims than they’re doing to anybody else. We’ve got to think about economic development because although there’s not direct correlation between terrorism and the economy, there’s no doubt that if you’ve got a lot of unemployed, uneducated young men in societies that there is a greater likelihood that terrorist recruits are available.

But where you’ve got active plots and active networks, we’re going to go after them. We prefer partnering with countries where this is taking place wherever we can. We want to build up their capacity, but we’re not going to farm out our defense.

And I have to say, by the way, the operations that took place both in Libya and Somalia were examples of extraordinary skill and dedications and talent of our men and women in the armed forces. They do their jobs extremely well with great precision and at grave risks to themselves, and I think they’re pretty good examples of how those of us here in Washington should operate as well.

…the capture of Mr. Libi, why was he snatched at all?

President Barack Obama:
We know that Mr. al-Libi planned and helped to execute plots that killed hundreds of people – a whole lot of Americans – and we have strong evidence of that. And he will be brought to justice.

Mr. President, while you’re waiting for the shutdown to end, why isn’t that you can’t go along with many of the bills the House is passing funding the FDA and FEMA where you were yesterday and veteran’s benefits and Head Start? You’ve got to be tempted to sign those bills and get funding to those programs that you support.

President Barack Obama:
Of course, I’m tempted because you’d like to think that you could solve at least some of the problems if you can’t solve all of it. But here’s the problem: What you’ve seen are bills that come up where wherever Republicans are feeling political pressure, they put a bill forward. And if there’s no political heat, if there’s no television story on it, then nothing happens. And if we do some sort of shotgun approach like that, then you’ll have some programs that are highly visible get funded and re-opened, like national monuments, but things that don’t get a lot of attention – like those SBA loans – not being funded.

And, you know, we don’t get to select which program we implement or not, and there are a whole bunch of things that the Republicans that have set into law that we have to do and I don’t get a chance to go back and say, “You know what? This cockamamie idea that this Republican Congressman came up with that I really don’t like so let’s not implement that.” Once you have a budget and a government with a set of functions, you make sure that it all operates. We don’t get to pick and choose based on which party likes what.

So you know that’s where the budget discussions take place. Now, if there are somethings that Republicans don’t like, they should argue for eliminating those programs in the budget, come up with an agreement with the Democrats, maybe the Democrats will agree, and those things won’t be funded. But you don’t do a piecemeal approach like that when you’re dealing with government shutdown, okay?

Mr. President, you talked about the political dynamics of that House Republicans feel that they don’t want to negotiate…I want to ask you two things about that. Looking back at the 2011 default discussions, is there anything you wished you had done differently in 2011 and after this what you call this nonsense has ended, what do you expect the political dynamics might – how will it have changed to move forward?

President Barack Obama:
Well, I think it’s an interesting question. In 2011, I entered into good faith negotiations with John Boehner. He had just won the speakership. It was at a time when because we were still responding to the recession, deficits were high, people were concerned about it, and I thought it was my obligation to meet him halfway. And so we had a whole series of talks. And at that point, at least, nobody had any belief that people would come close to potential default. I don’t regret having entered into those negotiations and we came fairly close. And whenever I see John Boehner to this day, I still say, “Should have taken the deal I offered you back then”, which would have dealt with our long-term deficit problems, would not have impeded growth as much, would have boosted confidence.

But at that time, I think House Republicans had just taken over. They were feeling their oats, thinking “We don’t have to compromise” and we came pretty close to default and we saw the impact of that.

I would have thought that they would have learned the lesson from that as I did, which is we can’t put the American people and our economy through that ringer again. So that’s the reason why I’ve been very clear we’re not going to negotiate around the debt ceiling. That has to be dealt with in a reasonable fashion.

And by the way, I often hear people say, “Well, in the past, it’s been dealt with all the time.” The truth of the matter is if you look at the history, people posture about the debt ceiling frequently but the way the debt ceiling often got passed was you’d stick the debt ceiling onto a budget negotiation once it was completed because people figured, “Well, I don’t want to take a bunch of tough votes to cut programs or raise taxes and then also have to take a debt ceiling vote. Let me do it all at once.” But it wasn’t a situation in which if I don’t get what I want, then I’m going to let us default. That’s what’s changed, and that’s what we learned in 2011.

And so as a consequence, I said we’re not going to do that again, not just for me but because future Presidents – Republican or Democrat – should not be in a position where they have to choose between making sure the economy stays afloat and we avoid worldwide catastrophe or we provide concessions to one faction of one party in one house.

But let me tell you a lesson I did not learn. I did not learn a lesson that we shouldn’t compromise. I still think we should. I still think there are all kinds of issues that we should be talking about and I don’t expect to get 100% of my way. And I’m still very open to having conversations with not just the Speaker but any Republican over there.

If you enter into a series of short-term funding bills or a debt ceiling bill, you will be back in the same place presumably with these same members – so what has changed to the political dynamic if you do the short-term…?

President Barack Obama:
Well, I think what has changed is they’re aware of the fact that I’m not budging when it comes to the full faith and credit of the United States, that that has to be dealt with, that you don’t pay a ransom – you don’t provide concessions for Congress doing its job and America paying its bills. And I think most people understand that.

I mean, I was at a small business the other day and talking to a bunch of workers and I said, you know, when you’re at the plant, you’re in the middle of your job, do you ever say to your boss, “You know what? Unless I get a raise right now or vacation pay, I’m going to shut down the plant. I’m not just going to walk off the job. I’m going to break the equipment.” I said how do you think that would go? They all thought they’d be fired. I think most of us think that. You know, there’s nothing wrong with asking for a raise, asking for more time off, but you can’t burn down the plant or your office if you don’t get your way. Well, the same thing is true here and I think most Americans understand that. All right?

Thank you very much everybody!


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

  1. Pingback: Transcript: President Barack Obama's press conference on the government shutdown & debt ceiling - Oct. 8, 2013 - Part V | What The Folly?!

  2. Pingback: Transcript: President Barack Obama's press conference on the government shutdown & debt ceiling - Oct. 8, 2013 - Part I | What The Folly?!

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