President Barack Obama has announced he is willing to hold budget talks with Republicans, but not until they agree to lift “threats” against the economy.
Republicans “don’t get to demand ransom in exchange for doing their jobs”, Barack Obama said, by demanding concessions in policy before reopening government.
The US government shut down last week when Congress failed to agree a budget.
Republican leaders on Tuesday renewed their calls for Barack Obama to open negotiations over ending the impasses.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner told reporters he was “disappointed that the president refuses to negotiate”.
He said the president’s position not to talk with Republicans “until [they] surrender” was not sustainable, and any discussions regarding the debt ceiling must address how the nation is “living beyond its means”.
At the White House, Barack Obama said he had spoken to John Boehner and was “happy to talk with him and other Republicans about anything”.
But Barack Obama said any negotiations on the ongoing government shutdown or the debt limit “shouldn’t require hanging the threats of a shutdown or economic chaos over the heads of the American people”.
“We can’t make extortion routine as part of our democracy,” Barack Obama said.
“Democracy doesn’t function this way. And this is not just for me. It’s also for my successors in office, whatever party they’re from.”
He also warned of the repercussions of defaulting on the government’s debt should Congress fail to raise the borrowing limit, currently set to be reached on October 17.
Barack Obama said breaching the borrowing limit could disrupt capital markets, undermine international confidence in America, permanently increase the nation’s borrowing costs, add to its deficits and debt, and pose the “significant risk of a very deep recession”.
The US government partially shut down operations on October 1st after Republicans who control the House of Representatives refused to approve a budget, saying they would only do so if Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law were delayed or stripped of funding.
Barack Obama and the Democrats have thus far refused, noting the law was passed in 2010, subsequently approved by the Supreme Court, and was a central issue in the 2012 election which Obama won.
At the same time, the Republicans have refused to approve an increase in the US debt limit unless it is accompanied by significant spending cuts and other policy concessions.
Barack Obama maintains John Boehner could end the current government showdown by allowing the House to vote on a “clean” budget bill that does not alter the health law, because that could pass with votes from both Democrats and moderate Republicans.
But doing so would risk damaging his standing with the most conservative elements of his caucus, analysts say.
US and foreign officials and economists have warned of severe economic consequences if the US defaults on its debt because the government is unable to borrow money to fund its obligations.