Obama Dares Republicans to Defy Tea Party on Obamacare, Shutdown Deal

The president injected himself into the GOP’s intra-party struggle, asking moderates to help pass a budget compromise and debt-ceiling increase.

President Barack Obama, Brady Press Room Briefing
National Journal
Patrick Reis
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Patrick Reis
Sept. 16, 2013, 9:43 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama took a swipe at the Hard Right on Monday, ac­cus­ing tea-party-aligned House Re­pub­lic­ans of gambling with the na­tion’s eco­nomy by threat­en­ing to shut down the gov­ern­ment un­less Obama­care is de­fun­ded.

In a sprawl­ing eco­nom­ic speech, Obama called on Con­gress to avert a gov­ern­ment shut­down by passing a budget, and he in­sisted he would brook no wrangling over a raise in the debt ceil­ing. Obama said such a shut­down, or even the pos­sib­il­ity of de­fault, would dam­age the still-fra­gile eco­nom­ic re­cov­ery.

Spe­cific­ally, the pres­id­ent went after Re­pub­lic­ans who say they won’t vote for any budget deal that does not nul­li­fy the Af­ford­able Care Act. “I can­not re­mem­ber a time when one fac­tion of one party prom­ises eco­nom­ic chaos if it can’t get 100 per­cent of what it wants,” Obama said. “That’s nev­er happened be­fore, and that’s what hap­pen­ing right now.”

Obama ap­pealed to the rest of the Re­pub­lic­an Party for help in broker­ing a budget com­prom­ise, chal­len­ging mem­bers to break with those call­ing for de­fund­ing Obama­care.

“Are some of these folks so be­hold­en to one ex­treme wing of their party that they’re will­ing to tank our whole eco­nomy?” he said. “Are they will­ing to hurt people?”

By go­ing after one GOP “fac­tion” and ap­peal­ing to the oth­er, Obama is seek­ing lever­age in a tac­tic­al dis­pute that has vexed Re­pub­lic­ans all sum­mer. In one camp are le­gis­lat­ors — head­lined by  Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — who are in­sist­ing that the party shut down the gov­ern­ment un­less fund­ing is stripped for the health care law. Oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans, in­clud­ing much of the party’s lead­er­ship, say they too want to de­fund the health care law, but they see con­nect­ing Obama­care to a gov­ern­ment shut­down as too polit­ic­ally risky.

In seek­ing to fur­ther di­vide the camps, Obama is hop­ing to avert a gov­ern­ment shut­down while also achiev­ing some Demo­crat­ic policy aims, such as roll­backs of the se­quester-in­duced spend­ing cuts that Obama on Monday said were hurt­ing eco­nom­ic growth.

The gov­ern­ment’s cur­rent budget is set to ex­pire Oct. 1. If Con­gress can­not pass a budget be­fore then — a pos­sib­il­ity that seems in­creas­ingly likely as days dwindle on the le­gis­lat­ive cal­en­dar — it has the op­tion fore­stall shut­down by passing a short-term ex­ten­sion.

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