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With One Pair Of Crises Behind Him, Obama Looks Forward


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel. It is back to business. Today, President Obama welcomed the end of the government shutdown as hundreds of thousands of furloughed employees returned to work. But even with the government reopened and the threat of default lifted, the president warned that the episode had done unnecessary damage to the U.S. economy.

As for the politics of the shutdown, the president said there are no winners and he urged lawmakers to rethink the way they operate. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: In Washington and throughout the country, federal employees who've been idle for more than two weeks made their way back to work today. At EPA headquarters a few blocks from the White House, Vice President Biden was on hand to greet the returning staffers.

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Welcome back, everybody. How are you?

HORSLEY: President Obama added his own welcome to returning workers. While he's happy to have his White House staff back, Obama says he's disappointed by what he calls another self-inflicted crisis that set our economy back.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: 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.

HORSLEY: The American people are completely fed up, the president says, and Washington needs to change the way it does business.

OBAMA: 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.

HORSLEY: Looking ahead, the president highlighted several areas where he thinks progress is possible, including the federal budget. The deal that ended the government shutdown requires budget writers from the Republican House and the Democratic Senate to work together to try to craft a long term spending plan by mid-December.

GOP Congressman Paul Ryan says that kind of cooperation used to be routine.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN: The House passes a budget, the Senate passes a budget, you come together to try and reconcile the differences. This is how the founders envisioned the Constitution working.

HORSLEY: To begin the process, Ryan met over breakfast this morning with his Senate counterpart, Patty Murray. Democrats and Republicans have tried and failed in the past to achieve a grand bargain on the budget that would combine savings in programs like Medicare with higher tax revenues. Senator Murray says the goal this time is not some preset reduction in the deficit, just a middle path between their competing proposals.

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY: Chairman Ryan knows I'm not going to vote for his budget. I know that he's not going to vote for mine. We're going to find the common ground between our two budgets that we both can vote on that's our goal.

HORSLEY: In addition to the budget negotiations, Obama says there's still time this year for Congress to pass a farm bill and comprehensive immigration reform. The Senate has already approved a bipartisan immigration bill, but it's been languishing in the House.

OBAMA: 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.

HORSLEY: Obama says he'll continue to seek out common ground with Republicans and Democrats, even where the two parties are too divided to reach agreement, he says. They should stop trying to demonize each other and sabotaging the opposition.

OBAMA: 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.

HORSLEY: Having temporarily mended the political rift that shut down the government and led to barricades around national memorials, Obama pleaded with lawmakers not to let disagreement degenerate into hatred. He said this is still one nation, indivisible. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.