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White House: House GOP Must Break Cycle of Using Shutdown as Leverage

September 30, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
Ahead of votes in the House, senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer told Judy Woodruff the president will not sign any bill that delays or defunds health care reform, and called House Republican threats to force a government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act on the day insurance exchanges open a "tremendous irony."
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JUDY WOODRUFF: We return now to our lead story with two takes on the showdown here in Washington over funding the federal government.

First, the Obama administration’s view.

Dan Pfeiffer is a senior adviser to the president. He joins me now from the White House.

Welcome again to the NewsHour, Dan Pfeiffer.

Let me just cite to you what Republican leaders in the House are saying this afternoon. They have modified their position somewhat. They’re no longer insisting on a full delay or defunding of the health care law. They’re now saying only — if the president will only agree to delay the individual mandate, because they say, after all, he’s already delayed the business mandate.

Would the president consider that?

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My apology. We are not able to hear Dan Pfeiffer.

Dan, can you — let’s see. We’re having trouble hearing Dan Pfeiffer.

Can we hear me now? Let’s see. Try again.

DAN PFEIFFER, Senior Adviser to President Obama: Can you hear me now Judy?

JUDY WOODRUFF: There we go. All right.

DAN PFEIFFER: Oh, there we go. OK.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Apologies.

DAN PFEIFFER: All right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, I had a long-winded question about whether the president would consider what the House Republican leadership is now saying, which is delay the individual mandate for a year.

DAN PFEIFFER: No, the president will not consider that.

The House is continuing to pass legislation they know will never become law. They know it will never pass the United States Senate. It will never passed — never be signed by the president. They are trying to use the threat of shutting down the government or shutting down the economy to try to extract things that cannot otherwise become law.

We’re not going to take that. The House has to do the right thing, pass a bill that has majority support in the House and the Senate and stop letting these Tea Party conservatives control the floor of the House, and keep the government open. There’s no reason not to do that. It should be very easy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, they say that this is simply a matter of fairness, equal treatment and they are also saying they want to take away the subsidy that the law now provides for members of Congress and their staff and for White House staff members. And they say, again, it’s just a matter of fairness. Would the president consider that?

DAN PFEIFFER: Absolutely not.

I think it’s important to understand exactly what they’re proposing. The law — this so-called Vitter amendment actually has nothing to do with Obamacare. They are referring to a subsidy that members of Congress and their staff and all folks who have employer-based coverage have been getting for years, long before Barack Obama was president or Obamacare was even something that was even considered.

It makes no sense. It’s very — I’m very confused as to why they want do that. All of this is just getting in the way of what they should do, which is keep the government open. Let’s not hurt the economy, let’s not hurt middle-class families. Let’s just do the very simple here, something that, as I would point out, has majority support in the House and the Senate.

But these Tea Party conservatives have veto power over everything that comes through the House.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Dan Pfeiffer, is there any flexibility in the president’s position?

DAN PFEIFFER: No.

This is — we have to break this cycle where the House Republicans use the threat of shutdown or default to try to extract some sort of ransom list of policy concessions they are unable to win through normal order, through passing it through both houses or through an election. And so that has to end, and it has to end now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, at some point, aren’t both sides going to have to give somewhat to get to common ground? Are you not creating bigger problems for yourself down the road by insisting that all the accommodating has to come on the other side?

DAN PFEIFFER: Well, we’re not asking for anything.

All we’re asking is that we keep the government running for six weeks at the levels at which Congress has already passed. They’re trying to use this as a leverage point for something else. This is not like we’re not saying, hey, pass immigration reform or we won’t sign the debt limit or we won’t sign a continuing resolution.

All we’re saying is just do what you have been doing before so we can figure this out. There’s no need to shut down the government. There is a tremendous irony here because tomorrow the health care exchanges are going to open. The House Republicans may shut down the government in an attempt to stop Obamacare, but the health care exchanges will open anyway.

So, they are just causing damage to the economy for no reason. It’s illogical, it’s unnecessary, and they should put an end to it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about something else which I know the White House has already commented on. And that was Republicans asking — and even some Democrats are saying the White House should give ground on this tax on medical devices, because what these companies say who make these devices is that it’s just causing them to have to have to move jobs overseas, eliminate jobs.

They’re saying there’s a business reason, an economic reason to change that part of the health care law.

DAN PFEIFFER: Well, I think — I would say a couple of things, that, first, if they want to have a conversation about anything, let’s take default and shutdown off the table first.

I think that’s the most important point here is you cannot use the threat of hurting the economy as a way to try to extract concessions. So that’s not going to happen. We are willing to talk to Republicans about anything. As you remember, the president took them all out to dinner to talk about a big budget deal. We are still waiting for them to come back with a counteroffer these many months later.

And I think — finally, I think there is an irony here which is after spending so much time running their campaigns saying they want to reduce the deficit, their big play is to repeal this tax on medical devices that would raise the deficit by about $100 million, I believe.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Dan Pfeiffer joining us from the White House, thank you very much.

DAN PFEIFFER: Thank you, Judy.