Post-crisis, Obama tells Congress to get to work

President Barack Obama told members of Congress that it's time to buckle down.  Credit: Reuters
President Barack Obama told members of Congress that it’s time to buckle down. Credit: Reuters

President Barack Obama urged Congress to focus on matters like immigration reform on Thursday as Washington picked up the pieces from a destructive fiscal crisis that has slowed the U.S. economy and undermined the country’s international standing.

Less than 12 hours after he signed a bill that ended a 16-day partial government shutdown and averted a catastrophic default, Obama on Thursday said lawmakers must stop lurching from crisis to crisis and seek common ground on issues that also include farm policy and long-term budget issues.

“All my friends in Congress have to understand that how business is done in this town has got to change. Because we’ve all got a lot of work to do,” he said at the White House.

On Capitol Hill, Republican and Democratic negotiators held their first meeting to discuss the long-term budget fixes that have proven elusive over the past three years. The panel is supposed to reach agreement by December 13, but there are no guarantees it will succeed where similar efforts have failed.

Obama spoke one day after the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a last-minute bill that will fund the government through January 15 and extend its borrowing authority through February 7, though the Treasury Department may be able to delay the day of reckoning for several weeks after that date.

The bill amounts to a clear defeat for Republicans, who had sought to tie government funding to measures that would undercut Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act.

That effort failed, and the standoff diverted public attention away from the administration’s sloppy rollout of the health law’s online insurance exchanges.

The fight split the Republican party into factions and left it on the wrong side of public opinion. Though Obama’s approval rating fell during the crisis, polls showed that most voters blamed Republicans for the standoff.

Republican Representative Tom Cole from Oklahoma, who will try to hammer out a budget deal with Democrats in the coming months, said it is time to move on. “We’ve had the fight,” he said on MSNBC. “Now it’s time to get down and identify the things we can agree on.”

U.S. stocks edged higher as investors returned to evaluating companies rather than Washington’s budget wrangling. The S&P 500 index fell as much as 4 percent during the standoff but is now nearly back to the record high it reached on September 18.

WORKERS RETURN

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers who had been idled by the standoff returned to work on Thursday. Vice President Joe Biden brought muffins to returning workers at the Environmental Protection Agency, while Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack greeted workers returning to the agency’s headquarters on the National Mall.

“I just hope we don’t have to go through this again in two months,” said Sandria Coombs, an EPA contractor.

What did she do during the shutdown? “Pray.”

Though federal workers will get back pay, the standoff is likely to slow economic growth in the fourth quarter from 2.5 percent to 2.3 percent with a high risk that it could slow even further, according a Reuters survey of 70 economists.

“The insanity in Washington is affecting consumer and business confidence. That’s the huge restraint to growth,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania.

The standoff has elevated borrowing costs, caused private-sector furloughs and delayed mortgage applications and construction permits. Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, estimates that it will cost the economy $20 billion.

The last debt-ceiling fight in 2011 depressed consumer confidence for months and raised the United States’ borrowing costs by $19 billion over 10 years.

One possible upside: the turbulence could prompt the Federal Reserve to keep its massive monetary stimulus in place through next year. One Fed official said the deadlock has undermined the central bank’s ability to fight high unemployment.

“Kicking the can down the road for a few months will not solve the pathology of fiscal misfeasance that undermines our economy and threatens our future,” Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher told the Economic Club of New York.

Economists say the spending cuts and tax hikes approved by Congress over the past several years have elevated the unemployment rate even as they have helped the country narrow budget deficits.

The deal approved Wednesday is likely to cause more short-term pain by keeping the across-the-board “sequester” cuts in place. Officials at the Pentagon and other federal agencies that have been able to minimize the impact of the cuts so far say they will slice deeper in the months to come.

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
News

Turkey: Voting begins in country's first direct presidential…

Some 53 million people are able to vote in the election, including 2.8 million citizens abroad. Until now, Turkish presidents were elected by parliament.

News

Libya seeks ceasefire as south Tripoli a militia…

By Patrick Markey and Aziz El YaakoubiTRIPOLI (Reuters) - Black plumes of smoke marked shell blasts and bulldozed earthen barricades mapped out the frontlines around…

Breaking: News

Russia mad about sanctions, says U.S. contributing to…

Russia reacted angrily on Saturday to additional sanctions imposed by the European Union over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis, saying they would hamper cooperation…

National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Gossip

Susan Sarandon likes doing drugs in the outdoors

Susan Sarandon got very, very candid about her feelings on drug use during an interview with the Daily Beast.

Gossip

Chris Martin dishes on 'conscious uncoupling' with Gwyneth…

"The thing we told everyone at the beginning of the year is true," says Chris Martin about Gwyneth Paltrow. "We are very close. We are not together."

Television

'Game of Thrones' livens up Comic Con with…

By Piya Sinha-RoySAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Laughter and death did battle on Friday at HBO's "Game of Thrones" panel at Comic Con, one of the…

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Sports

Kevin Love becomes third NBA player to pull…

Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves became the third NBA player to withdraw from consideration for Team USA in next month's World Cup, USA Basketball.

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.

NBA

Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.