As the US government went back to work for its first fully operational day in over two weeks, President Barack Obama addressed the nation Thursday morning from the White House, chastising Republican lawmakers who led the country so close to default.
Hours after authorizing a deal that allowed the US government to open back up for business, Obama laid into those congressional Republicans who allowed the country’s economic reputation to be severely tarnished by turning a legislative stalemate into a national crisis.
Obama said the Wednesday night deal allowed the government to re-open while also momentarily raising the debt ceiling, in turn ensuring “the first default in more than 200 years will not happen.”
The government shutdown, triggered October 1 by a budget dispute in Congress, shuttered several federal agencies and sent hundreds of thousands of government employees home on furlough, while lawmakers were urged to come to a compromise. Had Congress failed to reach an agreement on raising the debt ceiling, Obama warned previously, the consequences would “catastrophic.”
Discussing the reopening of the government Thursday, Obama said the US economy had been set back significantly during the weeks of the shutdown and has lost much ground as a result of the crisis.
“There’s been a lot of discussion lately on the politics of this shutdown, but let’s be clear: there are no winners here,” said the president. “These last few weeks have inflicted completely unnecessary damage on our economy. We don’t know yet the full scope of the damage, but every analyst out there believes it slowed our growth.”
And while the debt ceiling agreement reached late Wednesday in conjunction with a budget deal saved the country from default, Obama said the lack of leadership in Congress and the subsequent stalemate had hurt the American economy nevertheless.
“Just the threat of default, of America not paying all the bills that we owe on time, increased our borrowing costs, which adds to our deficit,” Obama said.
The president added it was “not a surprise” that Americans are “completely fed up with Washington,” and insisted “there was no economic rationale for all of this.”
“Over the past four years, our economy has been growing, our businesses have been creating jobs and our deficits have been cut in half. We hear some members who pushed for the shutdown say they were doing it to save the American economy, but nothing has done more to undermine our economy these past three years then these kinds of tactics,” Obama said.
He also said the tactics used by House Republicans had emboldened America’s competitors and depressed “our friends who look to us for steady leadership.”
Nevertheless, Obama insisted in his address “that the full faith and credit of the United States remains unquestioned.”
“But to all my friends in Congress,” said the president, “understand that how business is done in this town has to change. Because 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. Our system of self-government doesn’t function without it.”
The stalemate at the start of the month occurred after Republicans refused to approval a budget plan that would include the president’s Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it commonly known, a health insurance mandate that has managed to become one of the most controversial elements of Obama’s two terms in office.
As the Republicans finally caved in late Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters, “We fought the good fight,” adding, “We just didn’t win.”
Addressing the differences between his own Democratic Party and the GOP, Obama urged lawmakers on both side of the aisle Thursday to no longer let partisan issues polarize Congress to such a degree that catastrophe occurs.
“I understand we will not suddenly agree on everything now that the cloud of crisis has passed. Democrats and Republicans are far apart on a lot of issues, and I recognize there are folks on the other side who think my policies are misguided. That’s putting it mildly. That’s okay. That’s democracy. That’s how it works. We can debate those differences, vigorously, passionately, in good faith, through the normal democratic process. And some times, we’ll be just two far apart to forget an agreement. But that should not hold back our efforts in areas where we do agree. We shouldn’t fail to act on areas that we do agree or could agree just because we don’t think it’s good politics. Just because the extremes in our party don’t like the word “compromise.” I will look for willing partners wherever I can to get important work done. And there’s no good reason why we can’t govern responsibly, despite our differences, without lurching from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis,” Obama said.