Transcript and Audio: NPR Interview With President Obama
NPR’s Steve Inskeep interviewed President Obama on Monday about the looming government shutdown, the upcoming debt ceiling fight and more. A full transcript of the interview follows:
STEVE INSKEEP: As you have watched what’s happening in Congress, do you feel that House Republicans are coming any closer to anything that you could sign?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: No. And that’s unfortunate because I think what the American people have made clear and what I’ve made clear is that they do not believe ideological differences, the usual partisan politics around here, should result in a government shutdown.
People understand that when a government is shut down, not only is that hurting small businesses that aren’t getting loans or rural families who can’t get a loan for a house or the people who work for the federal government across the country who are neighbors and fellow churchgoers and customers and are obviously impacted because they still have mortgages and bills that they got to pay, even though they’re no longer at work and getting paid, but it affects the overall economy.
The last time we had a government shutdown — every time we have a government shutdown — the economy is adversely impacted. And I think what Americans right now believe is that we should be focused on jobs and growth and building our middle class.
Some of their proposals have narrowed down from canceling out funding for Obamacare and focused on items like the medical devices tax, which they want to repeal. Isn’t that something that you could discuss? There’s a lot of Democrats who have been concerned about that tax.
Keep in mind that from the start what I have said is I am happy to talk to Republicans about any issue. What we’re not going to do is to negotiate whether or not Congress pays its bills and whether or not Congress passes a budget that keeps government open. And the reason for that, particularly when it comes to Congress paying its bills, is that we cannot be a country that is lurching every two months or three months from crisis to crisis to crisis.
Essentially the bill that they’ve presented is they want to extract concessions for something they’re supposed to do anyway, and then two months from now we’ll be going through the exact same thing. This is a two-month extension of funding. This isn’t a broad-based solution to our fiscal problems.
More On The Interview
Obama: ‘Perpetual Cycle Of Brinksmanship … Has To End’
In Talk Of Shutdown, A Familiar Feeling At The White House
If they offered you more, Mr. President, would you be willing then to negotiate things like a delay in Obamacare and the individual mandate?
Steve, let’s be clear: We’re not going to delay the Affordable Care Act. There are millions of Americans right now who do not have health insurance. And they are finally, after decades, going to be in a position where they can 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.
You’re saying that even a larger budget deal — this is not on the table — the individual mandate must go into effect immediately?
The individual mandate is the only way that you can assure that people with pre-existing conditions are able to get health care like everybody else. And the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that you should not be barred from getting health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, partly because people understand that the majority of Americans over 50 have pre-existing conditions; huge swaths of the population right now, if they lost their job, would have trouble buying insurance on the open market, because of those pre-existing conditions. And they understand that we should not have a system in which people are regularly going to the emergency room, driving up costs for everybody else, because they haven’t acted responsibly.
As we talk, Mr. President, we’re on a day when, obviously, a shutdown is looming. You said earlier that you were going to be talking to the leaders. Did you mean Republican leaders? And if so, which ones?
Well, I’m going to be talking to all of them. And we still have a window, there’s still an opportunity during the course of this day, to avert a shutdown and make sure that we are paying our bills.
What can you offer?
And — if — if we — Steve, when you say, “What can I offer?” — I shouldn’t have to offer anything. 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.