- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Urging business leaders to lobby Republican lawmakers for higher spending, President Obama said Wednesday that partisan gridlock in Washington is a bigger threat to the U.S. than Chinese cyberattacks or Russian military aggression.

“Our problem is not that China’s going to out-negotiate us, or that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is sort of out-strategizing us,” Mr. Obama said. “Has anybody taken a look at the Russian economy lately? That’s not our problem. Our problem’s us, typically. We engage in self-inflicted wounds, like this potential government shutdown. It’s unnecessary.”

The president spoke to the Business Roundtable in Washington as the Oct. 1 deadline approaches without a federal budget for fiscal 2016. Mr. Obama said Democrats are ready to negotiate, “but it should be over legitimate questions of spending and revenue, not unrelated ideological issues.”

Some conservatives want to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood after a controversy over the agency allegedly selling fetal tissue for research. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, has said there won’t be a government shutdown over that issue or any other.

“Today some are suggesting the government should be shut down because they don’t like Planned Parenthood,” Mr. Obama told the business leaders. “That’s not good sense. The notion that we’d play ‘chicken’ with an $18 trillion economy and global markets that are already skittish, all because of an issue around a woman’s health provider that receives less than 20 cents out of every $1,000 in the federal budget, that’s not good policy making.”

The president’s proposed federal budget would raise spending by more than 6 percent and blow through the “sequestration” spending caps that some conservative lawmakers want to keep in place for most parts of the budget.

Mr. Obama also said that he intends to raise the issue of cybersecurity with Chinese President Xi Jinping when he hosts the Chinese leader for an official state visit at the White House next week. The president confirmed that the U.S. is preparing sanctions against Chinese companies that are believed to be stealing trade secrets from U.S. firms.

“This will probably be one of the biggest topics that I discuss with President Xi,” Mr. Obama said. “We are preparing a number of measures that will indicate to the Chinese that this is not just a matter of us being mildly upset, but is something that will put significant strains on the bilateral relationship if not resolved and that we are prepared to take some kind of … actions in order to get their attention. My hope is that it gets resolved short of that.”

He said Beijing shouldn’t provoke the U.S. into cyber warfare.

“Although the Chinese and Russians are close, we’re still the best at this,” Mr. Obama said. “If we wanted to go on offense, a whole bunch of countries would have some significant problems. We don’t want to see the Internet weaponized in that way.”

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