President Obama left responsibility for ending the government shutdown and avoiding an unprecedented debt default with House Speaker John Boehner’s court during an interview Friday.
“We know that there are enough members in the House of Representatives — Democrats and Republicans — who are prepared to vote to reopen the government today,” he said. In an exclusive interview with the Associated Press, Obama said he expects Congress to raise the debt ceiling before the Oct. 17 default deadline.
“We can’t establish a pattern where one faction of one party that controls one chamber in one branch of government can basically hold its breath and say, unless we get 100% of our way, then we’re going to let the entire economy collapse, the entire economy shut down,” he said.
Obama also defended the rollout of his signature health care plan despite problems with the program’s website that frustrated thousands of people who wanted to sign up for insurance. While the White House does not yet have figures on the number of people who signed up successfully, he said, “What we know is that…the interest way exceeded expectations and that’s the good news. It shows that people really need and want affordable health care.” As theNew York Times reported this week, millions of poor Americans will go without insurance because they live in states that declined to participate in an expansion of Medicaid and are too poor to afford health care through the Affordable Care Act.
On the foreign policy front, the president said he is encouraged by the diplomatic overtures of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and that he wants to take advantage of the opportunity to negotiate with Rouhani on Iran’s nuclear program and an end to the sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy. Despite strong opposition from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to diplomatic engagement with Iran, “what I’ve said to Prime Minister Netanyahu is that the entire point of us setting up sanctions and putting pressure on the Iranian economy was to bring them to the table in a serious way to see if we can resolve this issue diplomatically,” Obama said. “And we’ve got to test that.”
Obama declined to go into detail about his plans for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan after the December 2014 deadline for the end of combat operations there, although he did say that he would consider leaving troops there beyond combat operations if the Afghan government could make security assurances for them. “If in fact we can get an agreement that makes sure that U.S. troops are protected, makes sure that we can operate in a way that is good for our national security, then I’ll certainly consider that,” Obama said. “If we can’t, we will continue to make sure that all the gains we’ve made in going after al Qaeda we accomplish, even if we don’t have any U.S. military on Afghan soil.”