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Obama rips GOP on health care as he heads to vacation

President Barack Obama answers reporters' questions during a news conference in the East Room of the White House August 9, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
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President Barack Obama answers reporters' questions during a news conference in the East Room of the White House August 9, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

President Barack Obama prepared to head out for eight days of vacation on Martha's Vineyard on Friday, but not before sending a clear message to Republicans: He will not agree to any cuts to funding of his signature health-care law in return for a bill to keep the government running past Oct. 1 or to raise the debt ceiling in November.

"I am assuming they will not take that path," a combative Obama said during an hour-long news conference in which he repeatedly ripped the GOP for having "no agenda" on health care. "I have confidence common sense in the end will prevail."

Obama's sharp comments previewed what is likely to be a tough period when Congress comes back in September with just 11 working days to pass a resolution to keep the government running past Oct. 1. Both sides say they want to find a deal that keeps the lights on till the end of the year. But getting there won't be easy as House conservatives say they won't support any spending bill that funds Obama's health-care law.

And funding the government is likely to be the easy part. The government will run out of borrowing room under the debt ceiling later this fall, possibly in November (though big payments to the Treasury from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could alter the time table). Republicans want a dollar of spending cuts for each dollar the borrowing limit gets raise. Democrats will never agree to this.

Making matters more complicated: Republicans who might otherwise help cut deals, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, face primary challenges that make agreements less likely. And both McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner recently lost top back-room negotiators to the private sector.

Also notable from Obama's presser: He did not beat back the idea that former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers remains his leading candidate to succeed Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Obama said he still plans to make a decision in the fall and cited Summers and Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen as the among the top candidates.

But in perhaps a telling flub, he referred to the Fed Vice Chair as Mr. Yellen. One reason cited by those who say Summers has the inside track is that the president does not know Ms. Yellen well.

— By Ben White, POLITICO's chief economic correspondent and a CNBC contributor. White also authors the daily tip sheet POLITICO Morning Money [politico.com/morningmoney] Follow him onTwitter @morningmoneyben.

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