Obama told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that he would not cooperate with House Speaker John Boehner's demand for budget cuts in exchange for House Republicans' allowing the government to continue paying its obligations.
"I'm happy to have a conversation with him about how we can deal with the so-called sequester, which is making across-the-board cuts on stuff that we shouldn't be cutting, while continuing tax breaks, for example, for companies that are not helping to grow the economy," Obama said on ABC's "This Week." "What I haven't been willing to negotiate, and I will not negotiate, is on the debt ceiling."
Much of the federal government will shut down unless Congress passes a budget, or a temporary spending bill, by next month. Not long after that, the U.S. will run out of borrowing authority, with potentially catastrophic consequences for the world economy if the government defaults on its debts. Some Republicans want Obama to gut his own health care law in exchange for a functioning government.
Obama called the GOP's debt ceiling demands unprecedented.
"Never in history have we used just making sure that the U.S. government is paying its bills as a lever to radically cut government at the kind of scale that they're talking about," he said. "It's never happened before. There've been negotiations around the corners, because nobody had ever presumed that you'd actually threaten the United States to default."
Moreover, he said, Congress' routinely using the debt ceiling as leverage "changes the constitutional structure of this government entirely."
Boehner said last week that Obama would have to come around. "For decades, the White House, the Congress have used the debt limit to find bipartisan solutions on the deficit and the debt," Boehner said. "So President Obama is going to have to deal with this as well."