US & World

Obama on the GOP: 'I shouldn't have to offer anything'

File: President Barack Obama addresses the state of the economy during a speech at Knox College on July 24, 2013 in Galesburg, Illinois.
File: President Barack Obama addresses the state of the economy during a speech at Knox College on July 24, 2013 in Galesburg, Illinois.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

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With just hours to go before a potential government shutdown, President Obama said there is still a window to avert it.

"There's still an opportunity, during the course of this day to avert a shutdown and make sure that we are paying our bills," Obama said in an interview with NPR.

But when asked if any proposal from the House is closer to something he would approve, Obama said flatly, "No."

Obama spoke to Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep on Monday afternoon at the White House, but down the street, a momentous battle was happening on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers were in a partisan frenzy trying to avoid the first government shutdown in nearly two decades.

At the center of the debate is Obama's signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act. The GOP-controlled House was trying to stop implementation of the law by inserting language into the bill that funds government operations. But the Democratically controlled Senate stood firm, saying it would not accept anything but a clean continuing resolution, or a bill that funds the government, but does not include language about Obamacare.

Obama stood with his party members in the Senate. Steve asked if that opportunity to avoid a shutdown exists, what was he willing to offer.

"Steve when you say what can I offer? I shouldn't have to offer anything," Obama said. "They're not doing me a favor by paying for things that they have already approved for the government to do. That's part of their basic function of government; that's not doing me a favor. That's doing what the American people sent them here to do, carrying out their responsibilities.

"I have said consistently that I'm always happy to talk to Republicans and Democrats about how we shape a budget that is investing in things like early childhood education, rebuilding our roads and bridges and putting people back to work, growing our economy, making sure that we have the research and development to stay at the cutting edge and that deals with some of our long-term debt issues. But we're not going to accomplish those things if one party to this conversation says that the only way that they come to the table is if they get 100 percent of what they want and if they don't, they threaten to burn down the house."

Obama also told Steve that he would not negotiate on the fate of Obamacare.

"Steve, let's be clear, we're not going to delay the Affordable Care Act," Obama said. "There are millions of Americans, right now, who don't have health insurance and they are, finally, after decades going to be in a position where they can get get affordable health care just like everybody else and that means that their families, their kids, themselves, they've got the basic security that you and I enjoy. And the notion that we would even delay them getting that kind of peace of mind, potentially going to a doctor to get treated for illnesses that they currently have simply because the Republicans have decided, ideologically, that they're opposed to the Affordable Care Act is not something that we're going to be discussing."

Much more of President Obama's talk with Steve will air Tuesday on Morning Edition. Click here to find an NPR member station near you.