With the federal government shutdown dragging into a seventh day, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner are no closer to breaking the impasse, much less taking seats across from each other at a negotiating table.
During a midday visit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in southwest D.C., Obama today challenged Boehner's recent criticism that the president is obstructing a path to a resolution.
"I have said from the start of the year that I'm happy to talk to Republicans about anything related to the budget," Obama said inside FEMA's National Response Coordination Center. "There is not a subject that I am not willing to engage in, work on, negotiate and come up with commonsense compromises on."
Obama added, however, that he "cannot do that under the threat" of prolonged shutdown or default, which he said Republicans were using as leverage to "get a hundred percent of what they want."
"We shouldn't hurt a whole bunch of people in order for one side to think that they're going to have a little more leverage in those negotiations," Obama said.
The Obama-Boehner war of words intensified this weekend when the speaker, appearing on ABC's "This Week," criticized the president for a "refusal to sit down and have a conversation" without preconditions. He said the GOP-led House could not and would not vote to reopen the government or raise the debt ceiling without simultaneously addressing some of America's "underlying" economic problems.
"The American people expect in Washington when we have a crisis like this that the leaders will sit down and have a conversation," Boehner told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "And I told my members the other day that there may be a back room somewhere, but there's nobody in it. We're interested in having a conversation about how we open the government and how we begin to pay our bills. But it begins with a simple conversation."
Speaking at FEMA, Obama challenged Boehner to put a government funding measure on the floor for a vote, with no strings attached. The speaker told Stephanopoulos Sunday that the votes are not there.
Obama said, "If Republicans and Speaker Boehner are saying there are not enough votes, then they should prove it. Let the bill go to the floor, and let's see what happens. Just vote. Let every member of Congress vote their conscience, and they can determine whether or not they want to shut the government down."Obama said he made the midday trip to FEMA headquarters in southwest Washington to get a briefing on Tropical Storm Karen and to thank FEMA for preparing for weather-related natural disasters "under less than optimal situations."
"Their job has been made more difficult," he said.
The president said 100 of the 200 FEMA workers recently recalled to help prepare for Karen would be "refurloughed" now that the threat has passed.
"Here you are, somebody who's a FEMA professional, dedicated to doing your job," he said. "At a moment's notice, you're willing to show up here in case people got in trouble and respond to them even though you're not getting paid, even though you don't have certainty, and now you're being put back on furlough because the government is shut down.
"That's no way of doing business."