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Why won't Obama talk with Speaker Boehner? (+video)

President Obama says he will negotiate 'only after the threat of a government shutdown and default have been removed.' The opening move by GOP hard-liners to defund Obamacare polarized negotiations.

By Staff writer / October 8, 2013

House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio pauses during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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WASHINGTON

Why won’t President Obama just sit down with Republicans and discuss their fiscal differences? That’s what Speaker of the House John Boehner and the rest of his GOP leadership team asked Tuesday at a morning press conference. Clearly, this was the theme they had agreed to make the central point of their appearance. All avoided answering questions about particular issues or possible procedural moves to return to the question of talking.

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Washington Editor

Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.

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“Are we going to sit down and have a conversation, or aren’t we?” said Speaker Boehner.

Throughout the crisis over the government shutdown and impending debt ceiling problem, Mr. Obama’s answer to this question has been “no." Neither he nor Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) have shown any interest in a back-and-forth over Republican demands that he defund or scale back "Obamacare" as the price of funding the government or raising the debt ceiling.

Following Boehner’s press conference, Obama called him to reiterate that there will be no talks in the current environment.

“The President is willing to negotiate with Republicans – after the threat of government shutdown and default have been removed – over policies that Republicans think would strengthen the country,” said a readout of the call, released by the White House.

This refusal to engage has taken Republicans by surprise, apparently. An anonymous member of the House leadership told the Washington Examiner’s Byron York that he thought Democrats would respond with some sort of concession on the Affordable Care Act, such as agreement to repeal its medical device tax.

“Instead, it’s no, we’re not going to negotiate, we’re not going to negotiate, we’re not going to negotiate,” this lawmaker told Mr. York. “Which means effectively you’re going to try to humiliate the Speaker in front of his conference. And how effective a negotiating partner do you think he’ll be then? You’re putting the guy in a position where he’s got nothing to lose, because you’re not giving him anything to win.”

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