The federal shutdown that has idled some 800,000 government workers could be over by now — if members of Congress were able to vote on a bill that doesn't include an attack on the new U.S. health care system, President Obama says. "There are enough votes in the House of Representatives to make sure that the government reopens today," he told The Associated Press Friday.
In an interview with the news organization, published Saturday, Obama also said he believes the House and Senate would approve a bill that keeps the U.S. from defaulting on its obligations — an event that the Treasury warns could happen if legislation isn't approved by Oct. 17.
"And I'm pretty willing to bet that there are enough votes in the House of Representatives right now to make sure that the United States doesn't end up being a deadbeat," he said.
The AP interview with Obama touched on many topics. Here are some highlights:
On what a potential default would mean:
"Making sure that the United States government pays its bills — that's non-negotiable. That's what families all around the country do. If I buy a car, and I decide not to pay my car note one month, I'm not saving money. I'm just a deadbeat."
On those who pushed for the government shutdown:
"I recognize that in today's media age, being controversial, taking controversial positions, rallying the most extreme parts of your base, whether it's left or right, is a lot of times the fastest way to get attention and raise money," he said. "But it's not good for government."
On problems with websites for health care signups:
"It is true that what's happened is, the website got overwhelmed by the volume. And folks are working around the clock and have been systematically reducing the wait times," he said.
"We are going to probably exceed what anybody expected, in terms of the interest that people have."
On Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, and Israel:
"Rouhani has staked his position on the idea that he can improve relations with the rest of the world," Obama said. "And so far he's been saying a lot of the right things. And the question now is, can he follow through?"
The president says U.S. intelligence agencies estimate that Iran remains more than a year away from building a nuclear bomb, not the months away that Israeli officials have reported.
On the name of the Washington Redskins football team:
"If I were the owner of the team and I knew that the name of my team, even if they've had a storied history, that was offending a sizable group of people, I'd think about changing it," Obama said.