In a shutdown statement followed by a press conference this afternoon, President Obama said much of the same things about America's government standstill that he's been saying since last week: This is a situation caused by a handful of recalcitrant GOP jackasses who are unwilling to talk reasonably about how to end this mess. It is impossible to overstate this fact.
Obama opened his remarks with a glimmer of optimism, noting that he's been in negotiation conversations with Republican House Speaker John Boehner. He added, however, that those talks have been hampered by the president insisting he will not allow the Republicans to demand "ransom" for doing its job and paying America's debts ("ransom" in that sentence means gutting or delaying the Affordable Care Act).
"I am happy to talk to [Boehner] and other Republicans about anything—not just issues I think are important, but also issues that they think are important," said Obama. "I also told him that having such a conversation—talks, negotioations—shouldn't require hanging the threats of a government shutdown or economic chaos over the heads over the American people."
The economic chaos to which Obama refers to is the possibility that the U.S. will breach its debt limit due to Republican brinkmanship. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says America will run out of borrowed money by October 17, thus putting the country in danger of default. Many experts agree that a default would be catastrophic, but some Republicans seem unconcerned by a game of debt-limit chicken. "I would dispel the rumor that is going around that you hear on every newscast, that if we don't raise the debt ceiling, we will default on our debt," Republican Senator Tom Coburn told CBS. "We won't. We'll continue to pay our interest."
The president later pointed out that Republicans claiming he and Democrats are unwilling to negotiate in the face of shutdown and default are not being honest, saying that his side has shown "ample willingness to talk about any issues that Republicans are concerned about." The facts bear that out. Reports the Huffington Post:
The continuing resolution that the White House and congressional Democrats have agreed to funds the government at sequestration levels. And even some members of Cantor's own caucus admit that they got the good end of that deal.
"It is a concession, I acknowledge that," Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) told The Huffington Post on Saturday. “I was glad to see that lower number. It didn’t take defense spending into account. We still have a big discrepancy between the House and Senate version. But there has been some compromise and I acknowledge that."
In his most pointed remark, Obama essentially said that he is not interested in negotiating until John Boehner stops letting the Tea Party frog-march him into putting forth reckless demands: "I'm not going to do it until the more extreme parts of the Republican Party stop forcing John Boehner to issue threats about our economy. We can't make extortion routine as part of our democracy."