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Obama's exclusive interview with the AP

By The Associated Press | 10/8/2013, 9:44 p.m.
Q: Well, the tea party has really stood in the way of a lot of those objectives that you're seeking. ...
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)

So what I've said to them is this: Make sure that the United States government pays its bills. That's not negotiable. That's what families all around the country do. If I buy a car and I decide not to pay my car note one month, I'm not saving money -- I'm just a deadbeat. Well, this is the exact same situation.

Q: But if they don't, if they get up to this deadline and they are not willing to pass this clean debt ceiling that you're asking them to do, would you be willing to take other action to prevent default?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't expect to get there. There were at least some quotes yesterday that Speaker Boehner is willing to make sure that we don't default. And just as is true with the government shutdown, there are enough votes in the House of Representatives to make sure that the government reopens today. And I'm pretty willing to bet that there are enough votes in the House of Representatives right now to make sure that the United States doesn't end up being a deadbeat. The only thing that's preventing that from happening is Speaker Boehner calling the vote.

And I think most Americans, when they think about how our government is supposed to work, they say to themselves, each member of Congress has their conscience, they're supposed to represent their constituents back home. And if, in fact, there's a majority of the members of the House of Representatives who are prepared to move forward so that families can get back to work, so that people who are -- whether it's veterans or children or small businesses who are getting services from the federal government can start getting those services again -- I think most people would say, if there are votes to do it, let's go ahead and do it.

And then we've got a whole bunch of things that we've got to have a serious conversation about. We should be having a conversation not just about debt and deficits; we should be also having a conversation about how are we making sure that young people are getting a great education; how do we rebuild our infrastructure and put people back to work; how are we going to make sure that we fix a broken immigration system; how are we going to do all the things that we need to grow the economy and make sure that we are building a strong middle class and providing ladders for opportunity for people to get into the middle class if they're willing to work hard.

Q: Well, the tea party has really stood in the way of a lot of those objectives that you're seeking. Do you think the tea party has been good or bad for America?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't want to paint anybody with a broad brush. And I think one of the great things about our democracy is, is that we've always had a whole bunch of different regional attitudes and philosophies about government and ideologies, and the tea party is just the latest expression of probably some very real fears and anxieties on the part of certain Americans. And I get that. So there's nothing objectionable to having strong principled positions on issues, even if I completely disagree with many of their positions.