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Obama's exclusive interview with the AP

By The Associated Press | 10/8/2013, 9:44 p.m.
In this photo taken Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, President Barack Obama poses for a photo prior to an exclusive interview with The Associated Press in the White House library in Washington four days into a partial shutdown of the government. Obama, who successfully ran for president as a first-term senator, spoke critically about first-term Republican senators, such as Ted Cruz of Texas, who have been leading efforts to shut the government if Republicans can't extract concessions from the White House. He said that when he was in the Senate, he "didn't go around courting the media. And I certainly didn't go around trying to shut down the government." (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Q: The health care law is obviously very central to the government shutdown that's underway right now. Are you prepared -- given that you're not going to make concessions on your health care law, as you've said repeatedly, are you prepared to have the government stay shutdown up until the nation hits its debt ceiling in mid-October?

THE PRESIDENT: There's no reason that that should happen, Julie. We can vote to open the government today. We know that there are enough members in the House of Representatives -- Democrats and Republicans -- who are prepared to vote to reopen the government today. The only thing that is keeping that from happening is Speaker Boehner has made a decision that he is going to hold out to see if he can get additional concessions from us.

And what I've said to him is we are happy to negotiate on anything. We are happy to talk about the health care law, we're happy to talk about the budget, we're happy to talk about deficit reduction, we're happy to talk about investments. But what we can't do is keep engaging in this sort of brinksmanship where a small faction of the Republican Party ends up forcing them into brinksmanship to see if they can somehow get more from negotiations by threatening to shut down the government or threatening America not paying its bills.

Q: But do you now see those two situations -- the government shutdown and the debt ceiling -- now merging together, given how close we are to the mid-October deadline, as Secretary Lew has said?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, keep in mind, America has never not paid its bills. And I've said repeatedly that that's not something anybody should be threatening -- the potential default of the United States, where we are essentially deadbeats. That's never happened.

Q: But does that mean that if we get to the point where we're right before October 17th, or whatever the day ends up being, that you would actually use some of these options that some of your allies say are available to you, like the 14th Amendment, to prevent a default?

THE PRESIDENT: Julie, I have said before, there is one way to make sure that America pays its bills, and that's for Congress to authorize the Secretary of the Treasury, Jack Lew, to pay bills that they have already accrued.

Look, I think it's very important, because the name of this is the debt ceiling and so when people hear that, they automatically think, well, that must mean that somehow this is authorizing more spending and more debt for the United States. That's not what this is. What this is, is the ability for the United States government to pay for things that Congress has already committed us to paying for. And as a result, this has been a routine vote. It has happened more than 40 times since Ronald Reagan was President.

Never before has a party threatened to not pay our bills except for 2011 -- the last time that Speaker Boehner and some of the same people in the House of Representatives thought that it might give them more leverage in negotiations. And we can't establish a pattern where one faction of one party that controls one chamber in one branch of government can basically hold its breath and say, unless we get 100 percent of our way, then we're going to let the entire economy collapse, the entire economy shut down.