Obama accuses House GOP of extortion in budget fight

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For the second time in three days, President Obama targeted tea party Republicans in the House of Representatives and accused them of trying to “extort” the White House.

Speaking to top corporate executives from the Business Roundtable in Washington on Wednesday morning, the president said he’s willing to sit down with the GOP to further reduce federal spending and cut wasteful programs, but again rejected any negotiations around raising the nation’s debt ceiling.

“You have never seen in the history of the United States the debt ceiling or the threat of not raising the debt ceiling being used to extort a president or a governing party and trying to force issues that have nothing to do with the budget and have nothing to do with the debt,” Mr. Obama said. “I am prepared to work with Democrats and Republicans to deal with our long-term entitlement issues. … What I will not do is to create a habit, a pattern, whereby the full faith and credit of the United States end up being a bargaining chip to set policy.”

The president made similar comments on Monday, turning a speech about economic recovery efforts into a blistering assault on House Republicans.

The fight, likely to drag on for the next several weeks or longer, centers on both the federal budget for fiscal 2014 and debt ceiling. The current fiscal year expires Sept. 30; analysts believe the U.S. will reach its debt limit sometime in late October or early November, and Congress must vote to raise it to avoid nonpayment of the government’s debts.

Some House Republicans want to repeal or defund Obamacare, the president’s signature domestic achievement, through budget or debt ceiling negotiations.

But Republican leadership have resisted that idea, and the focus instead has begun to center on further reductions to federal spending levels and, perhaps, long-term reforms to entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Still, Mr. Obama continues to play Republicans against one another by seeking to divide House Speaker John Boehner and other party leaders from tea party members, many of whom were elected from conservative districts on largely anti-Obamacare platforms.

The president said Obamacare must be set aside from the larger debate, and he expects Congress to produce a “clean” debt ceiling vote sometime in the near future.

“We can raise the debt ceiling tomorrow just by a simple vote in each chamber and set that aside and then we can have a serious argument about the budget,” Mr. Obama said.

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