* Combative tone in White House appearance
* Obama to Republicans: "Don't shut down the economy"
* Republicans slam "grandstanding from president"
By Steve Holland and Mark Felsenthal
WASHINGTON, Sept 27 President Barack Obama
warned congressional Republicans on Friday they were on the
brink of triggering a government shutdown and a historic debt
default and urged them not to "burn down the house" to try to
extract budget concessions from him.
Obama made an appearance in the White House briefing room to
push for Congress to end its infighting as twin deadlines loom:
The federal government will run out of cash on Tuesday unless
Congress approves a spending bill to keep it open, and will
default on its debts if the U.S. borrowing limit is not extended
by Oct. 17 at the latest.
Republicans are using both deadlines to try to extract
concessions from Obama and his Democrats, including a delay in
the healthcare law that informally bears his name, "Obamacare."
"Our message to Congress is this: Do not shut down the
government. Do not shut down the economy. Pass a budget on time.
Pay our bills on time. Refocus on the everyday concerns of the
American people," Obama said.
His appearance was in line with a strategy to deal with the
threat of a government shutdown and default at a distance,
denouncing lawmakers he feels are responsible and avoiding
getting caught in a crossfire between conservative and centrist
Republicans have spent much of the past week attacking each
other, leaving House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner
without a unified following.
Obama made clear he did not intend to get involved in
negotiations with congressional leaders. In similar recent
budget battles, he engaged in exasperating talks with Boehner,
the top Republican in Congress.
In this case, he has resolutely refused, rejecting any
attempt by the conservative wing of the Republican-led House to
negotiate over funding his signature healthcare law or other
spending measures they would like to cut.
"There will be areas where we can work together. There will
be areas where we disagree. But do not threaten to burn the
house down simply because you haven't gotten 100 percent of your
way. That's not how our democracy is supposed to work."
He and the White House have engaged in increasingly strong
rhetoric as the week has progressed. White House senior adviser
Dan Pfeiffer raised eyebrows on Thursday by telling CNN the
White House would not negotiate "with people with a bomb
strapped to their chest."
'NO TIME TO NEGOTIATE'
Obama accused Republicans of "political grandstanding," a
reaction to conservative Republicans like Texas Republican
Senator Ted Cruz, whose 21-hour Senate floor speech earlier this
week was mostly an attack on the healthcare law but also
included a reading from Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham"
"I don't know how I can be more clear about this. Nobody
gets to threaten the full faith and credit of the United States
just to extract political concessions. No one gets to hurt our
economy and millions of innocent people just because there are a
couple of laws that you do not like," Obama said.
White House officials say Obama is open to negotiating with
Congress about spending priorities. But a senior official added,
"Obviously between now and Oct. 1, there is no time to
As a result, Obama backed a Senate vote for a short-term
spending measure to keep the government running in order to buy
He urged the House to follow the Senate's lead, but a
spokesman for Boehner made clear that would not happen.
"The House will take action that reflects the fundamental
fact that Americans don't want a government shutdown and they
don't want the train wreck that is Obamacare. Grandstanding from
the president, who refuses to even be a part of the process,
won't bring Congress any closer to a resolution," said Boehner
spokesman Brendan Buck.
Obama and Boehner have not spoken since the president issued
a stern warning to the speaker in a phone call last Friday that
he would not negotiate over the debt limit.
Obama's no-negotiations strategy carries some risks. He
could shoulder some of the political fallout for a shutdown or a
debt default in spite of his efforts to lay the blame at the
The president's job approval rating has sagged in recent
weeks, under the weight of his battle with Republicans and his
zig-zag policy on Syria, first threatening military action over
the use of chemical weapons before seeking a diplomatic
A CBS News poll this week said Obama's approval rating had
dropped to 43 percent, the lowest since March 2012, against 49
percent who disapproved.
Analysts say the approach that Obama is taking to the latest
budget battles is about the only one available to him.
"It is practically speaking the only thing he can do," said
Norm Ornstein, a political analyst at the American Enterprise
Institute. "Let's face it, what they're asking for now is a huge
laundry list of things unrelated to the debt."