December 05, 2013, 07:01 pm
Some Republicans have 'got to be embarrassed' by House, says Obama
By Justin Sink
President Obama said some Republicans have "got to be embarrassed" by the House of Representatives, saying lawmakers in the chamber "don't have a lot to show" for their time in the majority.
Obama argued Republicans worried about a primary challenge from the right were responsible for dysfunction in Washington, while speaking at a town hall forum at American University moderated by MSNBC host Chris Matthews.
"I actually think there are a lot of Republicans who want to get stuff done," Obama said. "They’ve got to be embarrassed. Because the truth of the matter is they’ve now been in charge of the House of Representatives – one branch or one chamber in one branch of government – for a couple of years now. They just don’t have a lot to show for it."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) dismissed the notion that Republicans were responsible for a historically unproductive congressional session at a Wednesday press conference on Capitol Hill.
"The American people work hard and they've got a right to expect their elected representatives to do the same. House Republicans are listening," Boehner said, noting the House has passed nearly 150 bills.
"Every single one of these bills have been blocked by Washington Democrats," Boehner said. "The Senate, the president continue to stand in the way of the people's priorities."
Obama, for his part, said that throughout history American politics get "all bollixed up," but that voters would "ultimately" insist their elected officials strike compromises.
"If, over and over again, they see that we’re not addressing the core problems that we have, eventually they will put in place people that are serious about getting the work done," Obama said.
The president's appearance at the Washington, D.C. college comes amid polls showing the president — and his signature health care law — ranking perilously low with the younger voters who propelled him twice to the White House.
A survey released earlier this week by Harvard University found a major of 18- to 29-year-olds disapprove of ObamaCare, and fewer than a third say they expect to sign up for coverage. The poll also found that just 41 percent of young voters approve of the president, down from 52 percent before his reelection.
Obama said he understood why young voters might have been resistant to signing up for coverage when the ObamaCare website was not working correctly.
"Fortunately, because of some very hard work, we've now got it to the point where for the vast majority of people, it's working well," Obama said. "And my message to young people is take a look for yourself."
Obama also said he understood why young voters might be opposed to the National Security Agency's surveillance programs, especially since "they spend so much time texting and, you know, Instagramming."
The president said individuals at the NSA. were "not interested in reading your emails" or text messages, and "that's not something that's done."
The president also conceded that the sheer size of the federal bureaucracy complicated his task.
He said that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned him when he took office that among the couple million people working for the federal government, "somebody, somewhere, at this very moment, is screwing something up."
"And that’s true," Obama said. "So I have to consistently push on every cabinet secretary, on every single agency, how can we do things better."
Still, the president maintained that "the government still does a lot of good," while blaming Republicans for souring public opinion on government.
"The entire Republican Party since Ronald Reagan has been: 'Government’s the problem,'" Obama said. "And if you — day after day, week after week, election after election -- are running on that platform and that permeates our culture and it’s picked up by ordinary citizens who grow skeptical, then it’s not surprising that, over time, trust in government declines."