Barack Obama isn’t budging in the shutdown showdown and he’s turning to a Republican ally for help: Big Business.
“I think Wall Street can have an influence. CEOs around the country can have an influence,” President Obama said Wednesday in an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood. “This is going to have a profound impact on our economy, their bottom line, employees and shareholders unless we start seeing a different attitude around that faction of Congress.”
The interview capped off a day of outreach to business leaders, including a meeting at the White House with top CEOs, in which Obama—taking a tough tone– made clear that the consequences of a government shutdown would be detrimental to the economy.
Obama dismissed talk on Wall Street that Washington will solve its problems, warning that the fight this time is putting not only government operations at risk, but the debt ceiling as well.
“I think this time it’s different,” Obama said in the interview. “I think they should be concerned.”
The message to the GOP is clear: Even your Wall Street benefactors want you to fold.
“There’s precedent for a government shutdown…there’s no precedent for default,” said Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, a Democratic ally on Wall Street, after the meeting.
Obama’s latest remarks came on Day 2 of the government shutdown – a direct result of House Republicans quixotically rallying around a plan to fund the government only in exchange for delaying or defunding the president’s Affordable Health Care Act.
The president emphasized that he was willing to negotiate with the GOP but the government must reopen first. He skewered House Speaker John Boehner for “not willing to say no to a faction of the Republican Party that is willing to burn the house down because of an obsession with my healthcare law.”
When Boehner decides to put the bill on the floor and a vote takes place to reopen the government “so we don’t default, then I’m prepared to have a reasonable, civil negotiations over a whole slew of issues,” said Obama.
Obama set up a meeting with leaders in Congress from both parties at 5:30 p.m. House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attended. But Congressional leaders emerged from their meeting offering little hope for a breakthrough.
The shutdown has forced approximately 800,000 federal workers off the job and suspended several nonessential federal programs and services.
Obama has called the shutdown a consequence of the GOP’s “ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans.” And while Obama has said he is willing to negotiate, he won’t barter over the debt ceiling – which America is set to eclipse on Oct. 17 – and which the president cast as the mere paying of bills Congress has “already racked up” being held hostage over legislation –Obamacare—that’s already been passed.
The White House has said the president will veto the House GOP’s piecemeal approach to try and fund things that are politically popular. Spokesman Ann Brundage said “The president and the Senate have been clear that they won’t accept this kind of game-playing, and if these bills were to come to the president’s desk he would veto them.”
During the interview with CNBC, Harwood noted Obama seemed to be showing exasperation and even mockery toward the GOP during the spending fight. He asked if Obama thought his Republcian opponents were “craven or stupid or nuts.”
Obama admitted he was exasperated.
“I am exasperated with the idea that unless I say to 20 million people you can’t have health insurance, these folks will not reopen the government. That is irresponsible.”