'How business is done in this town has to change,' Obama says
By Justin Sink - 10/17/13 11:25 AM ET
The president said that lawmakers should never again threaten the nation's financial stability.
President Obama scolded lawmakers for the brinksmanship that led to a government shutdown and said that "how business is done in this town has to change" in a speech from the White House on Thursday.
The president said there was "no economic rationale" for the brinksmanship on Capitol Hill that resulted in a 16-day government shutdown and an 11th-hour deal to avert the debt ceiling.
"Nothing has done more to undermine our economy in the past three years than the kind of tactics that create these manufactured crises," Obama said.
Declaring that there were "no winners here," the president said that lawmakers should never again threaten the nation's financial stability.
"We know that the American people's frustration with what goes on in this town has never been higher… The American people are completely fed up with Washington," Obama said.
The president also outlined a trio of legislative goals he said "would make a huge difference in our economy right now" if accomplished by the end of the calendar year.
The president said negotiators "should sit down and pursue a balanced approach to a responsible budget," adding that he was encouraged that the legislation he signed late Wednesday night would demand budget conferees.
He also urged lawmakers to "finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system," saying that passing a comprehensive bill could grow the economy by 5 percent during the next two decades.
Obama said a failure to act would leave the problem of undocumented workers "festering."
"This can and should get done by the end of the year," Obama said.
The president also called on Congress to pass a farm bill. A joint House-Senate conference committee is set to meet on the legislation by the end of the month.
"What are we waiting for?" Obama asked. "Let's get this done."
Obama said those on both sides of the aisle should "work together to make government work better instead of treating it like an enemy."
"I will look for willing partners wherever I can to get important work done," Obama said.
Obama's call for unity and better governance betrayed the deceptively complicated challenge of the speech for the president, who was widely thought to have prevailed in the two-week budget shutdown — but had to be careful about claiming too much credit.
In the West Wing, aides and advisors want to build on — but not jeopardize — whatever advantage Obama has gained in the fight.
They also worry that declaring victory could alienate Republican leaders they'll need again as they attempt to tackle Obama's legislative priorities.
On Wednesday night, aides to Republican lawmakers quietly fumed that the president made brief remarks from the White House before the House voted. They said the president appeared to be spiking the football, and could endanger the fragile caucus of House Republicans willing to back the debt-ceiling bill.
There was some danger that the president's warning Thursday that "nothing has done more damage to America’s credibility in the world… than the spectacle we've seen" could further inflame the GOP.
Strikingly, the president closed his remarks by directly addressing federal workers returning to their jobs on Thursday for the first time in more than two weeks, championing the importance of government and public service. Obama argued that those who came to the nation's capital played an essential role in ensuring the American dream, and implied lawmakers should take a lesson from their sacrifice.
"Thank you," the president said. "Thanks for your service. Welcome back. What you do is important. It matters."