President Barack Obama made an impassioned speech on Thursday morning, calling for a change in the way business gets done on Capitol Hill. Instead of the repeated brinkmanship, Obama has called on lawmakers to concentrate on areas where there is common ground to get back to the business of governing.
His speech came hours after signing the 2014 Continuing Appropriations Act to end the government shutdown and avert a U.S. default on its debt. The Senate voted 81 to 18 Wednesday night to pass the bipartisan measure; the House followed suit, voting 285 to 144.
The deal is only a temporary fix. Under the act, the 800,000 furloughed federal workers will return to work, as the government is now funded until Jan. 15 (and the debt ceiling increased until Feb. 7.) Additionally, the law requires that a House-Senate commission agree on a long-term deficit reduction plan by Dec. 13 so it can then be approved by Congress.
The shutdown went on for 16 days because of disagreements over the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
“To my all friends in Congress, understand that how business is done in this town has to change,” Obama said. “We've all got a lot of work to do on behalf of the American people, and that includes the hard work of regaining their trust.”
The president said the political grandstanding was another self-inflicted crisis that set the recovering economy back. He praised lawmakers for working together to end the “twin threats” but warned “there are no winners here.”
“There was no economic rationale for all of this,” Obama said. “Probably nothing has done more damage to America’s credibility in the world, our standing with other countries, than the spectacle we have seen these past several weeks.”
That spectacle, according to Obama, only encouraged the nation’s enemies, emboldened competitors and discouraged friends “who look to us for steady leadership.”
“The good news is we will bounce back from this. We always do,” he added. “America is the bedrock of the global economy for a reason. We are the indispensible nation that the rest of the world looks to as the safest and most reliable place to invest. ... We have earned that responsibility over more than two centuries ... because we keep our word and we meet our obligation.”
To Americans, businesses and the rest of the world, Obama said, “The full faith and credit of the United States remains unquestioned.”
Obama urged lawmakers to stop focusing on lobbyists, bloggers and those who benefit from a gridlocked Washington, D.C., and pay attention to the American people and serve them by getting “our fiscal house in order for the long haul.”
“That’s what we’re here for,” he said. “That should be our focus. And that won’t be easy. We have a divided government right now. (...) If we disagree on something we can move on and focus on the things we agree on and get some stuff done.”
The president said passing a balanced budget, immigration reform, and a farm bill are three of the areas where there is agreement and progress can be made immediately.
“We shouldn’t fail to agree on areas we could agree or should agree just because we think it’s not good policy,” Obama said, “just because the extremes don’t like the word 'compromise'.”
At least, progress might be made on the budget front in the coming weeks.
Leaders of both the House and Senate Budget Committees promised earlier to look for areas on which they find common ground this time around.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said it is “too premature” to get into the numbers of it all but added, “We are getting back to regular order. ... This is how the Founding Fathers envisioned the process to work. So we want to get back to that.”
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, said she believes there is common ground.
“Our job over the next eight weeks is to make sure we find things we can agree on,” she said. “We’re going to find the common ground between our two budgets, and that’s our goal.”