President Barack Obama declared there were “no winners” in the latest US debt crisis and called for more cooperation — then demanded that Congress implement his agenda.
After a 16-day partial closure of the federal government, with the United States on the precipice of an unprecedented and globally disastrous voluntary default, the Republican-led House of Representatives relented. Late Wednesday night it passed a proposal from the majority-Democratic Senate authorizing government operations through January 15 and necessary Treasury borrowing into February.
Later Thursday, visiting Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who survived his own governing crisis in an October 2 confidence vote, stated the obvious at the White House when he congratulated Obama, “for yesterday’s success is his success.” Earlier in the day, Mr. Obama, at first sounded a magnanimous tone as he thanked, “Democrats and responsible Republicans” who helped pass the short-term legislation, which had required a midnight signing.
“There’s been a lot of discussion lately of the politics of this shutdown. But let’s be clear. There are no winners here,” he said.
“These last few weeks have inflicted completely unnecessary damage on our economy.” Mr. Obama demanded that Congress pass a budget for the rest of the fiscal year through September 2014, implement immigration reform before the end of this year and act on stalled legislation to set agricultural policy for the next five years.
He acknowledged divided government but decried the latest “manufactured crisis” and issued a stiff warning to the legislative branch: “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.”
Then he blasted the conservative Republicans in Congress: “You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election.” A faction of House Republicans, the small-government tea party, a movement that arose in opposition to the so-called Obamacare, opposed until the last minute any measure that did not include provisions to erode the president’s 2010 health insurance reforms.
In response, the left-leaning President refused to negotiate what he called “ransom” to reopen the government and insisted on “clean” legislation with no provisions touching Obamacare.
In the end, the short-term measure, forged by leaders of the Democratic and Republican caucuses in the Senate, included a minor provision on Obamacare, reimplementing income verification for people receiving health insurance subsidies. The administration had previously postponed the anti-fraud measure.
A token gesture for Republicans, the White House dismissed it as an uncontroversial provision that did not violate Mr. Obama’s demand for a clean budget and debt measure.
Mr. Obama vowed to “look for willing partners wherever I can, to get important work done.” The measure established a bipartisan committee from both chambers of Congress to hammer out a full-year budget compromise by December 13. A similar 2011 debt-ceiling crisis was resolved with the formation of a “super-committee” to negotiate a deficit reductions, but a similar deadline came and went.
“Some people ask why this time will be different,” said Congressman Chris Van Hollen, the top House Democrat on budget policy and a member of the new committee.
“And what I would say is, not talking guarantees failure. Talking doesn’t guarantee success, but if you don’t get together, obviously, you can’t move forward.”