Obama to GOP: 'Win an election'
By Justin Sink - 10/17/13 12:27 PM ET
President Obama scolded lawmakers for playing political brinksmanship with the economy hours after the government reopened Thursday after a 16-day shutdown.
The president, viewed by most as the victor in the weekslong fight over funding the government and raising the debt ceiling, said the way business is done in Washington has to change.
Obama, who gave up no notable concessions in a battle that started with House Republicans pressing to defund ObamaCare, scolded the GOP with his comments and reminded them of their defeat in the 2012 election.
He said legislative change should be won at the polls, not through procedural hostage-taking that threatened the economy.
“You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president, then argue for your position,” Obama said. “Go out there and win an election.”
The comments are likely to have many Republicans complaining that Obama is spiking the football after a victory.
The bruising fight led to internal battles in the Republican party, and polls show more voters blame the GOP than the White House for the shutdown and debt ceiling crisis.
A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released earlier this week showed that, by a 22-point margin, the public blamed the GOP more for the shutdown, and the party's favorable numbers hit historical lows during the fight.
On Wednesday night, aides to Republican lawmakers were already fuming over Obama’s brief remarks from the White House after the Senate voted to raise the debt ceiling, but before a House vote.
Some Democrats before the shutdown began had noted that it could help their party, and even reinvigorate Obama’s second term, which has been lackluster so far.
Obama sought to press that advantage Thursday, casting himself as the figure in Washington siding with voters fed up with congressional bickering.
“Stop focusing on the lobbyists and the bloggers and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do, and that's grow this economy,” Obama said.
The remarks are a continuation of Obama’s message throughout the fight, in which he cast himself as the adult in the room, willing to talk with any member of Congress about any idea.
Republicans, for their part, complained throughout the fight that Obama was refusing to negotiate with them. They also argued his administration took steps to make the shutdown as painful as possible, such as by putting up barricades at the open-air World War II Memorial.
Obama and Democrats said it was Republicans who caused the problems by forcing the shutdown over an ill-thought out strategy of defunding the healthcare law that was opposed by the party’s own leaders.
“The American people are completely fed up with Washington,” Obama said Thursday.
“Nothing has done more to undermine our economy in the past three years than the kind of tactics that create these manufactured crises,” he said.
Obama did emphasize on Thursday that there were “no winners here,” but it’s something many in both parties privately disagree with.
Some Republicans — such as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — have publicly declared Obama the winner.
The legislation signed by Obama sets up new deadlines and fights over government funding. A House-Senate committee will discuss budget changes and report back by Dec. 13.
Funding for the government expires on Jan. 15, while the debt ceiling is hiked through Feb. 7.
Obama, eyeing future talks, outlined a trio of goals he said would immediately help the economy.
He said the budget conference set up by the deal reached by Congress should close corporate tax “loopholes” and free up “resources for the things that do help us grow, like education and infrastructure and research.”
Congress should pass immigration reform, perhaps the president’s biggest second-term goal and one that is languishing in the House, Obama said. He argued Thursday it would grow the economy by 5 percent.
And Obama 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.
Strikingly, the president closed his remarks by directly addressing federal workers returning to their jobs 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.”