— President Barack Obama says he is looking for "willing partners" for upcoming negotiations with Congress on the budget and other important priorities. Now that the 16-day U.S. government shutdown has ended and a U.S. default has been averted, Obama said Americans want an end to "government by crisis."
As federal employees returned to work, including White House staffers furloughed by the shutdown, Obama spoke about Americans' frustrations with politics in Washington.
He signed legislation early Thursday extending the borrowing limit until February 7 and funding government operations until January 15.
He thanked what he called "responsible" Republicans for coming together to end the shutdown and debt-ceiling crisis. But Obama added, "There are no winners here," there was unnecessary damage to the economy, and frustration with leadership in Washington has never been higher.
"The American people are completely fed up with Washington. At a moment when our economic recovery demands more jobs, more momentum, we got yet another self-inflicted crisis that set our economy back. And for what? There was no economic rationale for all of this," said the president.
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Without specifically identifying conservative Tea Party lawmakers, Obama said some members of Congress pursued "political brinksmanship" on the grounds it would save the American economy. But he said nothing has done more to undermine the economy, and that damage also has been done to U.S. credibility in the eyes of the world.
"But probably nothing has done more damage to America's credibility in the world... with other countries, than the spectacle that we have seen these past several weeks. It has encouraged our enemies. It has emboldened our competitors. It has depressed our friends who look to us for steady leadership," said Obama.
Obama said Americans and the world should know that the full faith and credit of the United States remains unquestioned. He said Americans want a change in how business is done in Washington.
"All of us need to 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 is, grow this economy. Create good jobs, strengthen the middle class, educate our kids, lay the foundation for broad-based prosperity and get our fiscal house in order for the long haul," said Obama.
Obama listed three areas in which he hopes progress can be made: budget negotiations, immigration reform and completing a farm bill.
Lawmakers tasked with coming up with new spending-reduction proposals by mid-December began their talks on Capitol Hill.
Representative Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate in 2012, who chairs the House Budget Committee, said, "We think it is high time that we start talking together to try to reconcile our differences.
Senator Patty Murray, a Washington state Democrat, said, "Our job over the next eight weeks is to find out what we can agree on, and we have agreed that we are going to look at everything in front of us."
In budget talks, Obama said all sides should focus on what they can agree on, but he re-stated his longstanding insistence on balanced solutions to fiscal problems.
"We should not approach this process of creating a budget as an ideological exercise, just cutting for the sake of cutting. The issue is not growth versus fiscal responsibility, we need both," said the president.
On immigration, Obama urged the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to approve by the end of the year a bill already passed by the U.S. Senate.
Obama said he will look for willing partners to get important work done, because leaders cannot govern responsibly while "lurching from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis."
Instead of treating government "like an enemy" or trying to break it, the president said, leaders should work together to make it better.