In a White House news conference, President Obama delivered a forceful defense of his health care law, daring congressional Republicans to force a government shutdown over their plans to defund the law.
At his first full news conference in more than three months, Obama said he intends to work with Congress but insisted that he will not surrender on his core principles.
Obama said he would open government surveillance programs to greater the legal scrutiny, the administration’s most concerted response yet to a series of disclosures about monitoring of civilian communications and secret proceedings before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Defending his signature health-care legislation against Republican threats, Obama called the 40 House votes to repeal Obamacare an “ideological fixation” and stated: “There’s not even a pretense that they’re going to replace it with something better.”
The Democratic President criticized Republicans who are calling for a government shutdown unless he agrees to a budget that eliminates funding for health care. The battle over funding will kick into high gear next month when Congress returns from recess with about four weeks to come to terms on a budget or cause a government shutdown.
“That’s hard to understand as an agenda that’s going to strengthen our middle class,” Obama said. “The idea that you would shut down the government unless you prevent 30 million Americans from getting health care is a bad idea.”
Obama also accused Republicans of making it “their holy grail” to stop his health care law.
“The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don’t have health care,” he said.
Obama says he believes if the Senate immigration bill makes it to the floor of the House it would pass, but he said Republican antics also appear to leave that a fading chance of becoming law. “The problem is internal caucus politics and that’s not what the American people want us worrying about,” Obama said.
Asked about previous comments suggesting that Al Qaeda is on its heels, in light of his administration’s decision to temporarily close many U.S. embassies in the Muslim world, Obama said: “Core Al Qaeda is on its heel, but what I also said was that AL Qaeda and other extremists have metastasized into regional groups that are dangerous.”
Obama maintained his assertion that Edward Snowden is no patriot.
The President claimed Snowden had alternatives to disclosing the secret surveillance programs carried out under him and George W. Bush but a number of commentators have reported there were no legal protections under the Act, contrary to Obama’s claims.
Snowden’s defenders also point out that the government has a a poor history of respecting legal protections for other whistleblowers like Thomas Drake and William Binney, who went through official channels only to find themselves subject of FBI investigations and otherwise persecuted.
Obama acknowledged a decline in U.S.-Russia relations under Vladimir Putin and defended his decision to cancel a planned summit meeting in Moscow next month.
“I think we saw more rhetoric on the Russian side that was anti-American, that played into some of the old stereotypes about the Cold War contest between the United States and Russia,” Obama said of Putin’s return to power last year. “I’ve encouraged Mr. Putin to think forward as opposed to backwards on those issues, with mixed success.”
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