"It's not a game I will play," declared Obama as Republicans struggled to find their footing in talks with a recently re-elected president and unified congressional Democrats.
At a meeting of the Business Roundtable a few blocks from the White House, Obama said he was aware of reports that Republicans may be willing to agree to higher tax rates on the wealthy, then seek to extract spending cuts from the White House in exchange for raising the government's borrowing limit.
"That is a bad strategy for America, it's a bad strategy for your businesses and it's not a game that I will play," Obama said, recalling the "catastrophe that happened in August of 2011."
That was a reference to a partisan standoff that led the Treasury to the brink of the nation's first-ever default and prompted Standard & Poor's to reduce the rating for government bonds.
Among the Republicans, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma became the latest to break ranks and say he could support Obama's demand for an increase in tax rates at upper incomes as part of a comprehensive plan to cut federal deficits.
Across the Capitol, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Republicans want to "sit down with the president. We want to talk specifics."
He noted that the GOP had made a compromise offer earlier in the week and the White House had rejected it.
Eventually, Democrats acknowledge, there will be compromise talks, possibly quite soon, toward an agreement that raises revenue, reins in Medicare and other government benefit programs, and perhaps raises the government's $16.4 trillion borrowing limit.
For now, the demonstration of presidential inflexibility appears designed to show that, unlike two years ago, Obama will refuse to sign legislation extending top-rate tax cuts and also to allow public and private pressure to build on the Republican leadership.