'This Week' Transcript: President Barack Obama

And I've told him and I've told the country what I think we need to do. I'm happy to have a conversation with him about how we can deal with the so-called sequester, which is making across-the-board cuts on stuff that we shouldn't be cutting, while continuing tax breaks, for example, for companies that are not helping to grow the economy.

There are ways of doing this; it's just that they haven't been willing to negotiate in a serious way on that. What I haven't been willing to negotiate, and I will not negotiate, is on the debt ceiling.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But presidents have done --

OBAMA: This --

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- that in the past, and you've done it in the past.

OBAMA: No, no, no, no. George, if you take a look, what has never happened in the past was the notion that, in exchange for fulfilling the full faith and credit of the United States, that we are wiping away, let's say, major legislation, like the Health Care Bill. That -- that's --

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're not open to any changes in --

OBAMA: that --

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- ObamaCare?

OBAMA: -- that's never happened before.

And when it comes to budgets, we've never had the situation in which a party said that, you know, unless we get our way 100 percent, then we're going to let the United States default.

That's never happened, George. That didn't happen when you were working here in the White House.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But there were reforms added to the debt limit legislation.

OBAMA: The -- George, I think it's fair to say, you -- that never in history have we used just making sure that the U.S. government is paying its bills as a lever to radically cut government at the kind of scale that they're talking about. It's never happened before.

There have been negotiations around the corners, because nobody had ever presumed that you'd actually threaten the United States to default.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But how does this end, then?

You know, they say they need changes in ObamaCare. You say you're not going to negotiate.

Are you just betting they're going to cave?

OBAMA: No, no -- George, here's the problem. The -- if we set -- if we continue to set a precedent in which a president, any president -- a Republican president, a Democratic president -- where the opposing party controls the House of Representatives, if that president is in a situation in which each time the United States is called upon to pay its bills, the other party can simply sit there and say, well, we're not going to put -- pay the bills unless you give us what our -- what we want, that changes the constitutional structure of this government entirely.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're not going to negotiate -- are you --

OBAMA: So we can't negotiate around the debt ceiling.

If Mr. Boehner has ideas about how we can grow this economy, strengthen the middle class, put people back to work in a serious way, of course we're happy to, you know, support the negotiations that are taking place between the House and the Senate.

If we're going to continue to reduce the deficit -- and I think a lot of people aren't aware of the fact that the deficit's been cut in half since I came into office; it's continuing on a trend line of further reductions -- if we want to do more deficit reduction, I've already put out a budget that says, "Let's do it."

I'm willing to reform entitlements. I'm willing to, you know, cut out additional waste that may be there.

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