August 23rd, 2013
06:00 AM ET
8 months ago

Obama: Republicans privately ‘agree’ with me

(CNN) - President Barack Obama argued some Republicans secretly side with him on wanting to avoid a government shutdown, but they’re afraid they may face backlash from the conservative right.

"Sometimes they say to me privately, 'I agree with you, but I'm worried about a primary from, you know, somebody in the Tea Party back in my district,' or, 'I'm worried about what Rush Limbaugh is going to say about me on the radio,'” Obama said in an exclusive interview with CNN "New Day" anchor Chris Cuomo.

Congress returns next month from a five-week recess with a full plate. If lawmakers do not approve a government funding bill before the fiscal year ends on September 30, the government would run out of money and would be forced into a partial shutdown.

Some Republicans – like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida – have said that they would be willing to shut down the government in order to defund Obamacare, the president's signature healthcare law.

Not all Republicans are behind that message, however. Some establishment Republicans have argued their party would take the bulk of blame for a shutdown and therefore don't support it.

Democrats, quite expectedly, call the plan a nonstarter.

"Nobody thinks that's good for the middle class," Obama said.

The president accused Congress of failing to meet the federal government's basic responsibilities on the eve of yet another legislative fight over federal spending and the debt ceiling.

"There hasn't been a legislative session as far as I can tell," Obama said. "Congress doesn't have a whole lot of core responsibilities. One core responsibility is passing a budget, which they have not done yet. The other core responsibility that they've got is to pay the bills that they've already accrued."

Read more: CNN analysis: Congress in D.C. far less than it used to be

Right now, Congress is on a near record low pace for passing laws, and criticizing Congress for their lack of output has been a common refrain from Democrats. House Speaker John Boehner, however, has said his body should not be judged by the number of laws it enacts.

"We should not be judged on how many new laws we create," Boehner said on CBS. "We ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal."

Congress will also be tasked to debate the debt ceiling, the credit limit on how much money the government may borrow. Budget experts expect the government to surpass the limit sometime between mid-October and mid-November.

Read more: Boehner to push for short-term government funding extension

A fight in Congress over the debt ceiling is nothing new, although fights have become increasingly more forceful in recent years.

In the interview with CNN, Obama at one pointed seemed surprised to even be talking about not raising the debt ceiling or passing a bill to fund the government.

"Why are we even talking about," Obama questioned. "Why aren't we just getting that done?"

– CNN's Jeanne Sahadi contributed to this report.


Filed under: Congress • President Obama
soundoff (641 Responses)
  1. End The Party

    This is why we need to end the political party here in the USA. Both parties are too busy fighting for power and money and have little time left to govern.

    August 23, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  2. lara99

    The thing that gets me the most is people just spitting out wild, unfounded accusations as though they're gospel. You can tell the people thta get their "news" from Fox, because they pretty much parrot back Rush and Hannity word-for-word. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and if you let someone else (anyone, from either side) think for you, it is a terrible thing ideed.

    August 23, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  3. Bill Smells

    It's good that our politicians fear the people, they should. Obama is too arrogant and knows this is his last term so he could care less what the people think and what they want. It's clear the people don't want what Obama is selling and their letting their GOP representatives know that. This is how politics works.

    August 23, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  4. Larry L

    Republicans need to think – just this once. They're worried about the votes from the fearful, bigoted right-wing radicals. But in the general election they're going to get those votes anyway. If they plan to run as a ultra-conservative in the primary and a moderate in the general, they need to remember Romney. He lost and his flip-flops were the main reason. Maybe just doing the right thing for the American people might get them some votes.

    August 23, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  5. Mike

    Congress is corrupt due to no term limits. Both partiies are. I am a bit tired of the President and the democratic party telling us that the republican party is the devil. Just because they wont give up their beliefs and vote your way does not make them evil. I disagree with a ton of what both sides are pushing...I just miss the days when polititians worked together begrugingly and respected each others right to have a view. Now if you have a view that differs from the liberal backed demecratic party in any way shape or form you are a hindrance and a roadblock. Its like saying your wife or husband are a roadblock to the future of your family if they want you to comprimise – does this make sense to anyone?!

    August 23, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  6. JC

    It's not how many bills are passed, but the quality of those that are. I'm embarrassed by my fellow conservatives. That being said, there's a part of this that CNN completely left out. The GOP didn't say that they would be willing to shut down the government to defund obamacare, they said that its one or the other. The coffers only have so much money, and obamacare puts them well over the mark. Something has to be cut. If you keep obamacare then something big has to be cut. I'm all for universal healthcare, but obamacare is a bad plan. We need to start over and let folks who are actually going to use it build it. Not some politician who gets free top quality healthcare for life.

    August 23, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  7. sonny chapman

    Larry L-"Do the right thing for America". How elusive & in so many ways. A politician hanging on to his power for dear life can turn themselves into a pretzel justifying that they're, "doing the right thing for America." Hell, we had Southern Pols in the 1960s who fought Civil Rights to "save America". Like today's Tea Party Crowd.

    August 23, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  8. Eric

    This is a cop out on Obama's part. Exactly why Obama has the reputation of being divisive. And looking at peoples comments, Obama's divisive strategy is working.
    Guys, I am republican. I will be the first to admit, and I think we all know, the Tea party is no longer relevant. None of us are worried about what the tea party thinks. And Most of us don't listen to Rush. Use some common sense

    August 23, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  9. Navybill

    I simply cannot understand how this man can sit in front of a camera and speak such drivel. As a conservative I am not afraid of Rush or Obama, or anyone else for that matter. All that seems reasonable to offer is that people need to get a grip on reality and find some common ground. To consider compromise as 100% vs 0% is delusional. If the children in DC cannot find common ground they need to take their toys and go home…forever.

    August 23, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  10. Westsacvoice

    The primary process should be illegal. The voters should be able to vote for anyone without a primary process narrowing down our choices. We have more options buying soda than electing representatives and you tell me which is more important. Primaries allow a minority to influence the how the majority votes.

    August 23, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  11. bails

    oh please!!!! This man can't leave office soon enough!!

    August 23, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  12. Anonymous

    Rush...the band?

    August 23, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  13. Jim8

    The biggest fear the Republicans have is what to do when the health care kicks in and people see they have been lied to, again, by those who oppose it, with no alternative.

    Just like Social Security. Say what you will, but we are all better off because of a program that has turned the historically neediest population, the elderly, into consumers. That money is mostly spent, going right into the economy.

    August 23, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  14. NorCalMojo

    The GOP leadership are afraid of everything Most are career seat warmers who prefer being in a minority. They really don't care what happens to the country as long as they get reelected.

    August 23, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  15. Not Too Hard To Understand

    This is so interesting. The GOP are such wimps.

    August 23, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  16. Jay Pa

    Congress is House and Senate.

    August 23, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  17. Publius Novus

    @Bill Smells. Since the day after Pres. Eisenhower's election to a second term, every second-term president has known it's his "last term," as you put it. In other words, whenever a U.S. president is re-elected, on the day after his second election, he is a lame duck and no longer needs "fear" the electorate. You can thank TERM LIMITS–the 22nd Amendment, a/k/a the GOP's revenge on FDR–for that stupidity. As for the people not wanting what Pres. Obama is selling, your narrative is somewhat at odds with the 2012 presidential and congressional election results. To wit: 1) the president was re-elected by a fairly large margin in both the popular vote and electoral college; 2) the president's party gained two seats in the Senate; and 3) the president's party gained six seats in the House, while in the aggregate receiving 2.4 million more votes than the opposition party's candidates, and probably would have flipped the House but for the extreme gerrymandering of congressional districts after the 2010 election.

    August 23, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  18. vincent

    Guess the Fear Mongering has Backfired on the Conservatives.

    August 23, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  19. hippie power 69

    republicans care nothing about the middle class or the working poor in america. they only care about the rich and that is who they work for. banks big corporations million and billion aires are their only concern. they have done nothing but trash our president since he was elected, and might i say twice elected, no thanks to them. they don't seem to care that the american people have elected obama to be their president. they have also tried to steal our vote and stop people from voting because they don't like who we are voting for. i see the republicans also have no use for women, except to clean and cook for them, with the laws they would like to put in place to control us. i hope to see the republicans lose whatever power they have because they are a disgrace to our constitutional way of governing. if they can't win an election they will steal it if they can. i don't trust them with the power they have. they change the congressional districts in their favor. they try to change the voting rules to their favor. we must watch them or they will take our right to vote away too. i remember what we use to say about richard nixon, dick nixon before he dicks you. well they same can be said today about the republicans.

    August 23, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  20. tea party days are numbered

    they should do whats right for their constituates not limbaugh, hannity, norquist, lobbyists, etc......

    August 23, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  21. Dave Rogers

    Rush is an entertainer. There is only one political party in the US... it is the RepublicansdandDemocrats They own both sides of every ticket and cannot lose an election. "Shutting down the government" is fine with me.

    Congress has no need to fear US voters. Even though they have a single digit approval rating, they always get a 95% reelection rate.... So it's not like someone else's opinion really matters. Even the "losers" just go on to be lobbyists.

    US voters vote so predictably and obediently that the composition of Congress is effectively decided by "bipartisan" gerrymandering negotiations... not elections.

    And no Congressman has the slightest thing to worry about... including rush and the Tea Party.

    August 23, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  22. joeintucker

    LOL 'we're afraid of Rush'! That's just to funny, Obumbles and the extreme lefties would love for that to be true though!

    August 23, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  23. Don

    I say all politicians are wimps. We should question why they are in the busniness and I bet it's not to represent their district, the issues they believe in, or notoriety, but what's in it for them. To run you need backers and it is this minority of wealthy backers who call the shots. I think if you follow the money trail you'll find that all issues supported or not supported can be traced back to the donors interests not that of Rush or the Tea Party who they are blaming it on.

    August 23, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  24. SeeThruIt2

    Attacking anyone personally is not the way to move forward to gain concensus. That tactic only forewarns them to ramp up their opposition.

    If the President wants to get his plans through Congress, he might try just working with individuals and groups within Congress to gain their buy-in. But, do so without the public attacks.

    August 23, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  25. Thom

    I would call them out on TV.....you want to shut down the government, then don't be surprised if you get booted out of congress next election. You'll be shutting down everything EXCEPT Obamacare anyway. Political suicide, I DARE you !!!

    August 23, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
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