President Obama on Thursday said that Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is the “only thing” prolonging a government shutdown and demanded the House GOP leader challenge conservatives in his own party and “call a vote” on a clean funding bill.
“The shutdown would end today” if Boehner put forward a spending bill without GOP measures defunding or delaying the president’s healthcare reform law, Obama told a crowd in Rockville, Md., just miles from the White House.
“He doesn't want to anger the extremists in his party," Obama added, prodding his Republican rival.
As the government shutdown stretches into a third day -- with no end in sight -- Obama said that GOP infighting threatened the whole economy, pivoting to an even larger fight to raise the nation's borrowing limit by Oct. 17.
The president hammered Republicans, saying they had no coherent strategy to reopen the government or avoid a potential default.
At one point, Obama quoted a Washington Examiner article in which Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., said, “We're not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is.”
"If you're being disrespected, it's because of that attitude you've got,” Obama responded.
The White House says that a clean spending bill could pass the House with the support of Democrats and centrist Republicans. Boehner, though, has said he will not move a funding bill without concessions from the president.
Obama met with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders at the White House for 90 minutes late Wednesday, but the gathering produced no progress on a deal.
Republicans say Obama has failed to negotiate in good faith to address their fiscal concerns.
“I find it unbelievable that the president would call Speaker Boehner and others over to the White House just to let them know he wouldn't negotiate," Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., complained. "You think about that, there's something very counter-intuitive about that move."
The president is looking to frame the fiscal clash in economic terms, arguing that Republicans are intent on damaging a slowly rebounding jobs market to score political points.
Obama made his remarks from M. Luis Construction, a small business in Maryland he said had benefited from the administration’s small business loans.
“The longer this goes on, the worse it will be — and it makes no sense,” Obama said of the shutdown’s effect on the economy.
But with the debt-ceiling deadline two weeks away, any deal may have to address both reopening the government and raising the nation’s borrowing limit.
Republicans privately concede that it would be easier to group the two fiscal matters together rather than try to move separate, contentious votes on the issues.
Obama in an interview with CNBC on Wednesday said that he will only negotiate with Republicans on deeper spending cuts or possible entitlement reforms after they vote to fund government and raise the debt limit without restrictions.
On Thursday, Obama refused to budge, dishing out more harsh rhetoric for the GOP.
“Take a vote; stop this farce; and end this shutdown right now,” Obama declared, imploring Republicans to stop “putting a gun to the head of the American people.”
This story was published at 11:51 a.m. and has been updated.