Obama: He'll Negotiate--as Soon as GOP Does What He Wants

October 8, 2013 - 5:41 AM

Obama FEMA

President Barack Obama (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(CNSNews.com) - President Obama on Monday used a manufactured photo opportunity to blast House Republicans for what he called a "manufactured crisis."

Pointing to a hurricane that fizzled before hitting land, the president once again insisted that Republicans fund the government and raise the debt limit with no strings attached and without negotiating anything.

"Pass a budget, end the government shutdown, pay our bills and prevent an economic shutdown," he told Republicans. "And as soon as that happens, I am eager and ready to sit down and negotiate with Republicans on a whole range of issues."

Obama spoke at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He said he went there on Monday to get a briefing on "what happened with Hurricane Karen, became Tropical Storm Karen and then fortunately dissipated, so we dodged a bullet there."

He thanked the people at FEMA, many of them furloughed, for "doing everything they can to respond to potential events." He said the government shutdown has made it more difficult for them to respond to events that never even happened:

"So (FEMA Director) Craig (Fugate) was just explaining to me here at FEMA, about 86 percent of the FEMA workforce is furloughed. In response to the potential event that might have happened down in Florida and along the coasts, Craig called back 200 of those workers. Keep in mind calling them back doesn't mean they were getting paid; it just means they had the privilege of working without pay to make sure that they were doing everything they can to respond to the potential needs of their fellow citizens."

That led Obama to his main point:

"Right now, Congress should do what's in the best interests of the economy and the American people, and that's move beyond this manufactured crisis and work together to focus on growth, jobs and providing the vital services that Americans all across the country depend on, including the services that FEMA provides."

House Republicans have passed a number of smaller bills funding vital services, but Democrats have denounced the effort as inadequate.

Obama on Monday also defended himself against criticism that he won't even talk to Republicans.

"I heard a lot of talk over the weekend that the real problem is, is that the president will not negotiate. Well, let me tell you something. I have said from the start of the year that I'm happy to talk to Republicans about anything related to the budget. There is not a subject that I am not willing to engage in, work on, negotiate and come up with common-sense compromises on.

"What I've said is that I cannot do that under the threat that if Republicans don't get a hundred percent of their way, they're going to either shut down the government or they are going to default on America's debt so that America for the first time of history does not pay its bills. That is not something I will do. We're not going to establish that pattern. We're not going to negotiate under the threat of further harm to our economy and middle-class families. We're not going to negotiate under the threat of a prolonged shutdown until Republicans get a hundred percent of what they want. We're not going to negotiate under the threat of economic catastrophe that economists and CEOs increasingly warn would result if Congress chose to default on America's obligations."

Obama insisted that there are enough Republican and Democratic votes in the House to end the shutdown immediately -- "with no partisan strings attached."

"If Republicans and Speaker Boehner are saying there are not enough votes, then they should prove it. Let the bill go to the floor, and let's see what happens. Just vote. Let every member of Congress vote their conscience, and they can determine whether or not they want to shut the government down."

Obama also insisted that Republicans raise the debt limit -- and end the sequester.

"Pass a budget, end the government shutdown, pay our bills and prevent an economic shutdown," he told Republicans. "And as soon as that happens, I am eager and ready to sit down and negotiate with Republicans on a whole range of issues."