For Obama, There Are No Winners or Losers — but There Are Villains

Spoiler alert: It’s House Republicans. And the president wants them to play nice for the rest of the year.

President Obama speaks about the reopening of the U.S. government following a shutdown Thursday morning in the State Dining Room of the White House.
National Journal
Marina Koren
Add to Briefcase
Marina Koren
Oct. 17, 2013, 8:36 a.m.

Now that the gov­ern­ment has opened and the threat of de­fault is off the table, some are won­der­ing what the first shut­down in 17 years was for. A ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans are fed up with Wash­ing­ton — and its lead­ers. In the shut­down’s af­ter­math, those lead­ers are be­ing neatly sor­ted in­to two groups: win­ners and losers.

For Pres­id­ent Obama, however, no one won or lost, and there wasn’t any eco­nom­ic ra­tionale for the shut­down, either. “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,” he said in a speech from the State Din­ing Room on Thursday morn­ing. “And for what?”

But there are vil­lains. “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 and our eco­nomy, and we’d be grow­ing faster right now,” Obama said.

That side is House Re­pub­lic­ans, and the pres­id­ent is wor­ried they will con­tin­ue to block le­gis­la­tion for the rest of the year. He poin­ted to an im­mig­ra­tion bill passed by the Sen­ate earli­er this year that is await­ing a House vote:

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.

And a Sen­ate-ap­proved $500 bil­lion farm bill that has been re­peatedly delayed by House Re­pub­lic­ans:

Again, the Sen­ate’s 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.

The pres­id­ent’s re­marks sug­gest that Amer­ic­ans haven’t seen the last of Re­pub­lic­an-led blocks to le­gis­la­tion in 2013. But Obama wants the House GOP to know it’s on thin ice with the White House. And he’s not alone: A ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans blame Re­pub­lic­ans for the shut­down, and the party’s pop­ular­ity has hit a re­cord low. Mov­ing for­ward, get­ting a head start on ne­go­ti­ations — and maybe even budging on some these is­sues — may not be a bad idea for the Grand Old Party.

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