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Obama's Second Term

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Obama Dares Boehner to Hold Vote on 'Clean' Funding Bill

October 7th 2013

Obama with baseball bat

President Obama dared Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday to prove there aren’t enough votes in the House to pass a “clean” bill to reopen the government. "The House should hold that vote today," Obama said during a visit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday. "If Republicans and Speaker Boehner are saying there are not enough votes, they should prove it."

The move is in response to Boehner’s assertion Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that there aren’t enough votes in the House to pass a government funding bill without additional concessions to Republicans, and is meant to raise public pressure on the Speaker to end the shutdown.

The White House immediately questioned Boehner's comments, noting media reports that more than 20 Republicans had voiced a willingness to vote for that type of bill. Most Democrats in the House also say they would vote for a clean government-funding bill. On Monday, Obama said his "very strong suspicion" was that "there are enough votes there."

He accused Boehner of not wanting to end the government shutdown "unless he's able to extract concessions."
"Hold a vote," Obama said. "Call a vote right now and let's see what happens." The president also urged House Republicans to pass an extension of the debt ceiling. The Treasury Department has said it will not have enough funds to pay the nation’s bills as of Oct. 17.

In the same television interview Sunday, Boehner also said the House could not pass a clean hike of the debt ceiling. But Obama called raising the debt limit "routine" and said the nation faced economic calamity of the House did not act.

A spokesman for Boehner said that the president's visit to FEMA headquarters underscored Obama's unwillingness to come to the table for discussions about the budget and debt ceiling. The White House has threatened to veto a series of piecemeal continuing resolutions that would fund popular and visible aspects of the federal government, including FEMA.

“The bill passed the House last week and is awaiting action by Senate Democrats. If the president and Washington Democrats want FEMA up and running, they have the ability to make it happen today,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said.

Obama said that Democrats had already compromised by agreeing to a continuing resolution that maintained automatic spending cuts known as the sequester. "Democrats have said we are willing to pass a bill that reflects the Republicans' priorities in terms of funding levels - thats a pretty significant compromise," Obama said.

He also said he would be willing to discuss any topic, but was "not going to negotiate under the threat of economic catastrophe." Obama specifically mentioned health care and energy policy, fueling speculation that the White House could be willing to negotiate over the medical devices tax or Keystone XL pipeline as part of a broader budget deal.

During the visit to FEMA, Obama also will thank employees who worked over the weekend to prepare for a pair of violent storms in the Midwest and Gulf Coast. He said that around 86 percent of FEMA workers had been furloughed, and that of the 200 workers who had been reactivated for storm preparation, at least half would be sent back home.

Justin Sink writes for The Hill, from where this article is adapted.

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