President Obama speaks during an exclusive interview with The Associated Press in the White House library on Oct. 4, 2013.
(Photo: Charles Dharapak, AP)
(USA Today) -- President Obama insists he will not negotiate major budget issues with congressional Republicans until they vote to reopen the government and to lift the debt ceiling.
"There are enough votes in the House of Representatives to make sure that the government reopens today," Obama told the Associated Press in an interview.
The president added: "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."
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other Republicans who want to attach a delay to Obama's health care plan, have criticized Obama's refusal to negotiate as the government shutdown enters its fifth day and a debt crisis looms.
"The White House's refusal to negotiate is putting the nation at risk of default," said Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck. "If we're going to resolve this, we're going to have to work together."
Obama also told the AP that:
• Potential consumers should not give up on the new health care exchanges because of initial computer glitches.
Government officials "are working around the clock and have been systematically reducing the wait times," Obama said.
• He is optimistic about new diplomacy with Iran, as the United States seeks a deal in which the Iranians would renounce any attempt to make the means to create nuclear weapons.
"We're not going to take a bad deal," Obama told the Associated Press. "We are going to make sure that we verify any agreement that we might strike."
• U.S. intelligence agencies predict that Iran is about a year or more from having the capability to make a nuclear bomb; Israel disagrees, saying Iran is closer.
• The United States may keep some forces in Afghanistan after the formal end of the war in 2014, if an agreement can be reached with the Afghan government; the U.S. and Iraq were unable to reach a similar deal after the end of the war.
Obama told the wire service that "no matter what, by the end of next year, we'll be finished with combat operations" in Afghanistan.
• The owner of the Washington Redskins football team should "think about changing" its nickname because it is offensive to some Native Americans.
The Associated Press interviewed Obama on Friday, and published the results Saturday.
The shutdown began at midnight Monday, with Congress and the White House unable to agree on a spending plan as the new fiscal year began.
The Republican-run House wants a plan that includes a one-year delay of provisions in the new health care law.
Obama and the Democratic-run Senate say the new spending plan should not make any changes to health care. The Senate has killed three House attempts to change parts of the law, and Obama has vowed to veto any bill that would do that if it passed Congress.
While Boehner and other Republicans also seek more deficit reduction and changes to entitlement programs, Obama told the Associated Press that he has told the GOP speaker "we are happy to negotiate on anything."
But, Obama told AP, he will not allow a situation in which "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 by not paying its bills."
Obama has called on Boehner to hold a House vote on a "clean" spending plan with no health care changes.
Republicans have criticized Obama and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid for refusing to negotiate the differences over spending and health care.
In the weekly Republican radio address, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said that "it has become disturbingly clear that the Obama-Reid shutdown is no longer about health care, or spending or ideology. It's about politics, plain and simple."
With the government shutdown in its fifth day, Obama and congressional Republicans also face another rapidly approaching deadline: Oct. 17, the day the Treasury Department says it will finally breach the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling.
Without an increase, the government faces a first-ever default on its debts, Obama said, a development that could plunge the nation and the world into recession.
"Never before has a party threatened to not pay our bills except for 2011," Obama said - "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."
Obama, who successfully ran for president during his first term as a U.S. senator, also criticized new Republican first-termers who have led the opposition to the health care plan. The group includes such Tea Party-backed senators as Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
When he was in the Senate, Obama told the AP, he "didn't go around courting the media. And I certainly didn't go around trying to shut down the government."
Obama also said: "I recognize that in today's media age, being controversial, taking controversial positions, rallying the most extreme parts of your base, whether it's left or right, is a lot of times the fastest way to get attention and raise money," he said. "But it's not good for government."