Obama Aides: Negotiating With Republicans Makes Default More Likely

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Larry Downing / Reuters

Speaker of the House John Boehner listens to U.S. President Barack Obama during a meeting with bipartisan congressional leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White House on Sept. 3, 2013

President Barack Obama has no plans to reverse course on his no-negotiation stance on the debt limit and the government shutdown, two of his top economic aides said Monday at a breakfast briefing sponsored by Politico.

“That would increase, not decrease the chances that we and our country would default,” said Gene Sperling, the Director of the National Economic Council, of negotiating with Republicans. “He would be sanctioning the use of threatening default as a common negotiating tactic.”

He added that Obama is trying to “prevent an unprecedented distortion of our separation of powers,” that is being attempted by House Republicans.

Jason Furman, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, reiterated the administration’s belief that Obama has no way of working around the nation’s debt limit, which must be raised by Oct. 17 to avoid risking default.

“There is nothing in the law that gives the president the authority to ignore the debt limit,” he said.

The White House officials said there was some tiny space for a face saving compromise with Republicans. Furman expressed openness to Boehner tacking on a small add-on to a bill to reopen the government and raise the debt limit—an addition he called a Republican “talking point”—such as “no budget, no pay” provisions for Congress. But Furman said that whatever is added to the bill must not violate the administration’s commitment to it being a “clean” bill, and he said the White House would not negotiate over the additions.

Furman added that once Congress passes a debt limit increase without negotiations, the White House is open to sitting down with Republicans to deal with their fiscal concerns. “We need to all make clear that the era of threatening default is over,” Sperling said.