Obama Faces Huge Economic Concerns
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
OK, the president has to choose a new Federal Reserve chair. When it comes to the economy, though, he has a more immediate concerns. One: the threat of a government shutdown at the end of this month; the other the battle to increase the country's debt limit.
Joining us as she does most Mondays is Cokie Roberts. Hey, Cokie.
COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, David.
GREENE: So we have this big date is coming up, October 1, when the government could run out of money and might need to shut down. I mean it does not seem like the president and lawmakers are getting anywhere close to some kind of deal to avert that?
ROBERTS: No, they don't seem to be close. Now, the president is going to make an economic statement today. He's going to talk about jobs and his plans for that. But immediately we do have October 1, which is the beginning of next year's fiscal year and when the legislation funding government spending expires.
The Republican leadership had a proposal to keep things going at current spending levels, but it was rejected by members of their own party, what I call the upstart caucus, the newly elected in the last couple of elections conservative Republicans who thwart their leadership on a regular basis and what they want to do now is once again do something to take away any spending from Obamacare, the healthcare bill.
Now, they know it's not going to happen, the Senate's not going to defund Obamacare. The president's not going to sign anything like that, but they're insisting on it and outside conservative groups are lobbying very hard the Congress on it. Republican leaders know a government shutdown works against them politically, so they're trying to avoid it, but they haven't found a way out yet.
GREENE: That's a window into that impasse. And Cokie, I guess I mean these pressures that families know very well, it's one thing to run out of money and have to make difficult choices, it's whole different problem to default on debt, and defaulting on the nation's debt is something that Congress and the president might need to try and figure out. Is the deal possible there?
ROBERTS: Well, a deal I think is essential there. The government has to lift the amount that it's allowed to borrow in order to finance programs it's already agreed to spend money on. And if it doesn't lift the debt ceiling, as it's called, then it could go to default, which would have very serious financial consequences.
The president says he's not going to compromise on this; we've never had the situation in which a party that says we have to have, he says, what we want 100 percent and then we're going to let the United States default. He claims the other side is intransigent. But here again, that upstart caucus in the House could queer(ph) any deal that's agreed to by the leadership. They feel they have a strong hand just because it's so important.
Yesterday one of the leaders of that caucus, Michigan's Justin Amash, said, look, we have a Republican House. We've been elected by Republicans. We have to start with a Republican plan and then we can compromise. So we'll see what that means.
GREENE: Cokie, I was struck recently that when President Obama said that he is trying to refocus attention on domestic issues, I mean even as he deals with the situation in Syria, now that we have this deal over the weekend, the U.S. and Russia agreeing on a way to try and rid Syria of chemical weapons, I mean does the mean that Syria's less of a concern for the president and the United States for now?
ROBERTS: Well, it's less of a concern between the president and Congress for now, and the Russians gave the president a way out on that, and this is, of course, a very important deal, if in fact it can get chemical weapons out of Syria, but that's a big if. A very senior White House official told me over the weekend that the deal is not done yet. Still, he said, and I'm quoting, "we have miles to go before we sleep."
But still it did pull the White House and the president back from the brink of a humiliating defeat in the Congress. The real question now is how do you enforce this deal, and that is not at all settled, and if, in fact, the Syrians don't comply, what does the president do then? Does he strike and does he go back to Congress before he strikes, if that's what he chooses to do? Big questions still left there, David.
GREENE: A lot of questions still to answer. Cokie Roberts, always good to start the week with you.
ROBERTS: Thank you.