President Obama Speaks on Reopening the Government

The President:
Good morning, everybody. Please have a seat. Well, last night,
I signed legislation to reopen our government
and pay America’s bills. Because Democrats and
responsible Republicans came together,
the first government shutdown in 17 years is now over. The first default in more
than 200 years will not happen. These twin threats to our
economy have now been lifted. And I want to thank those
Democrats and Republicans for getting together and ultimately
getting this job done. Now, there’s been a lot
of discussion lately of the politics
of this shutdown. But let’s be clear:
There are no winners here. 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. We know that families
have gone without paychecks or services they depend on. We know that potential
homebuyers have gotten fewer mortgages, and small business
loans have been put on hold. We know that consumers
have cut back on spending, and that half of all
CEOs say that the shutdown and the threat of shutdown
set back their plans to hire over the next six months. We know that 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. And, of course, we know that the
American people’s frustration with what goes on in this
town has never been higher. That’s not a surprise that the
American people are completely fed up with Washington. At a moment when our economic
recovery demands more jobs, more momentum, we’ve got yet
another self-inflicted crisis that set our economy back. And for what? 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 than the kind of tactics that create
these manufactured crises. And you don’t have to
take my word for it. The agency that put America’s
credit rating on watch the other day explicitly
cited all of this, saying that our economy “remains
more dynamic and resilient” than other advanced economies, and that the only thing
putting us at risk is — and I’m quoting here — “repeated brinksmanship.” That’s what the credit
rating agency said. That wasn’t a
political statement; that was an analysis of what’s
hurting our economy by people whose job it is to
analyze these things. That also happens
to be the view of our diplomats who’ve been hearing from their
counterparts internationally. Some of the same folks who
pushed for the shutdown and threatened default
claim their actions were needed to get America back
on the right track, to make sure we’re strong. But probably nothing has
done more damage to America’s credibility in the world, our
standing with other countries, than the spectacle that we’ve
seen these past several weeks. It’s encouraged our enemies. It’s emboldened our competitors. And it’s depressed our
friends who look to us for steady leadership. Now, the good news is we’ll
bounce back from this. We always do. America is the bedrock of
the global economy for a reason. We are the indispensable nation
that the rest of the world looks to as the safest and most
reliable place to invest — something that’s made it easier
for generations of Americans to invest in their own futures. We have earned that
responsibility over more than two centuries because of the
dynamism of our economy and our entrepreneurs,
the productivity of our workers, but also because
we keep our word and we meet our obligations. That’s what full
faith and credit means — you can count on us. And today, I want our people and
our businesses and the rest of the world to know
that the full faith and credit of the United States
remains unquestioned. But to all my
friends in Congress, 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. And now that the
government is reopened, and this threat to our
economy is removed, 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’s 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. That’s why we’re here. That should be our focus. Now, that won’t be easy. We all know that we have
divided government right now. There’s a lot of
noise out there, and the pressure from the
extremes affect how a lot of members of Congress
see the day-to-day work that’s supposed to be done here. And let’s face it, the American
people don’t see every issue the same way. But that doesn’t mean
we can’t make progress. And when we disagree, we don’t
have to suggest that the other side doesn’t love this country
or believe in free enterprise, or all the other
rhetoric that seems to get worse every single year. If we disagree on something,
we can move on and focus on the things we agree on,
and get some stuff done. Let me be specific about
three places where I believe we can make progress right now. First, in the coming
days and weeks, we should sit down and pursue
a balanced approach to a responsible budget, a budget
that grows our economy faster and shrinks our long-term
deficits further. At the beginning of this year,
that’s what both Democrats and Republicans committed to doing. The Senate passed a budget;
House passed a budget; they were supposed to come
together and negotiate. And had one side not decided
to pursue a strategy of brinksmanship, each side could
have gotten together and figured out, how do we shape a budget
that provides certainty to businesses and people
who rely on government, provides certainty to
investors in our economy, and we’d be growing
faster right now. Now, the good news is the
legislation I signed yesterday now requires Congress
to do exactly that — what it could have been doing
all along. And we shouldn’t 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. We need a budget that deals with
the issues that most Americans are focused on: creating more
good jobs that pay better wages. And remember, the deficit is
getting smaller, not bigger. It’s going down faster than
it has in the last 50 years. The challenges we have right
now are not short-term deficits; it’s the long-term obligations
that we have around things like Medicare and Social Security. We want to make sure those are
there for future generations. So the key now is
a budget that cuts out the things that we don’t need, closes corporate tax loopholes
that don’t help create jobs, and frees up resources for the
things that do help us grow — like education and
infrastructure and research. And these things historically
have not been partisan. And this shouldn’t be as
difficult as it’s been in past years because
we already spend less than we did a few years ago. Our deficits are half of what
they were a few years ago. The debt problems we
have now are long term, and we can address them
without shortchanging our kids, or shortchanging our grandkids,
or weakening the security that current generations have
earned from their hard work. So that’s number one. Number two, we should finish
fixing the job of — let me say that again. Number two, we should
finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system. There’s already a broad
coalition across America that’s behind this effort of comprehensive
immigration reform — from business leaders
to faith leaders to law enforcement. In fact, the Senate has already
passed a bill with strong bipartisan support that would
make the biggest commitment to border security
in our history; would modernize our legal
immigration system; make sure everyone
plays by the same rules, makes sure that folks who
came here illegally have to pay a fine, pay back taxes,
meet their responsibilities. That bill has already
passed the Senate. And economists estimate that
if that bill becomes law, our economy would be 5 percent
larger two decades from now. That’s $1.4 trillion
in new economic growth. The majority of Americans think
this is the right thing to do. And it’s sitting there waiting
for the House to pass it. Now, if the House has ideas on
how to improve the Senate bill, let’s hear them. Let’s start the negotiations. But let’s not leave
this problem to keep festering for another year,
or two years, or three years. This can and should get done
by the end of this year. Number three,
we should pass a farm bill, one that American farmers
and ranchers can depend on; one that protects vulnerable
children and adults in times of need; one that gives rural
communities opportunities to grow and the long-term
certainty that they deserve. Again, the Senate has already
passed a solid bipartisan bill. It’s got support from
Democrats and Republicans. It’s sitting in the House
waiting for passage. If House Republicans have ideas
that they think would improve the farm bill, let’s see them. Let’s negotiate. What are we waiting for? Let’s get this done. So, passing a budget;
immigration reform; farm bill. Those are three specific
things that would make a huge difference in
our economy right now. And we could get them done by
the end of the year if our focus is on what’s good for
the American people. And that’s just the big stuff. There are all kinds of other
things that we could be doing that don’t get as
much attention. 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 that 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 sometimes, we’ll be just too
far apart to forge 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. In fact, one of the things that
I hope all of us have learned these past few weeks is
that it turns out smart, effective government
is important. It matters. I think the American people
during this shutdown had a chance to get some idea of all
the things, large and small, that government does that make
a difference in people’s lives. We hear all the time about
how government is the problem. Well, it turns out we rely
on it in a whole lot of ways. Not only does it keep us strong
through our military and our law enforcement, it plays a vital
role in caring for our seniors and our veterans,
educating our kids, making sure our workers are
trained for the jobs that are being created, arming our
businesses with the best science and technology so they can
compete with companies from other countries. It plays a key role in keeping
our food and our toys and our workplaces safe. It helps folks
rebuild after a storm. It conserves our
natural resources. It finances startups. It helps to sell our
products overseas. It provides security
to our diplomats abroad. So let’s work together to
make government work better, instead of treating
it like an enemy or purposely
making it work worse. That’s not what the founders
of this nation envisioned when they gave us the gift
of self-government. You don’t like a particular
policy or a particular president, then argue
for your position. Go out there and
win an election. Push to change it. But don’t break it. Don’t break what our
predecessors spent over two centuries building. That’s not being faithful to
what this country is about. And that brings me
to one last point. I’ve got a simple message for
all the dedicated and patriotic federal workers who’ve either
worked without pay or been forced off the job without
pay these past few weeks, including most of my
own staff: Thank you. Thanks for your service. Welcome back. What you do is important. It matters. You defend our country overseas. You deliver benefits to our
troops who’ve earned them when they come home. You guard our borders. You protect our civil rights. You help businesses
grow and gain footholds in overseas markets. You protect the air we breathe and the water
our children drink. And you push the boundaries
of science and space, and you guide hundreds
of thousands of people each day through the glories
of this country. Thank you. What you do is important. And don’t let anybody
else tell you different. Especially the young people who
come to this city to serve — believe that it matters. Well, you know what,
you’re right. It does. And those of us who have the
privilege to serve this country have an obligation to do
our job as best we can. We come from different parties,
but we are Americans first. And that’s why disagreement
cannot mean dysfunction. It can’t degenerate into hatred. The American people’s hopes
and dreams are what matters, not ours. Our obligations are to them. Our regard for them compels us
all, Democrats and Republicans, to cooperate, and compromise,
and act in the best interests of our nation — one nation, under God,
indivisible with liberty
and justice for all. Thanks very much.

Maurice Vega

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