• Obama: shutdown encouraged US foes, depressed friends

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    US President Barack Obama warned Thursday that America’s recent bout of political dysfunction had encouraged its enemies and dismayed its friends, and said the crisis left “no winners” in Washington.

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    In trying to heal the wounds of the last two weeks of internecine drama, Obama hoped to avoid a new stalemate within months, after a temporary truce between Republicans and Democrats.

    “There’s been a lot of discussion lately of the politics of this shutdown,” Obama told an audience of returning executive branch workers in the State Dining Room of the White House.

    “Let’s be clear. There are no winners here.”

    The president called on warring politicians to come together to pass a long-term budget and to give up the “brinkmanship” that squandered the trust of the American people.

    He spoke less than 11 hours after signing legislation that ended a 16-day government shutdown and a showdown over raising his government’s borrowing authority.

    The bill brought a temporary end to a stand-off that had threatened to pitch the US economy into a historic default.

    Investors cheered the deal, signed to end the shutdown and debt drama, powering the S&P 500 index to an all-time high of 1,733.15, up 0.67 percent.

    Obama urged Congress, specifically Republicans in the House of Representatives, to pass stalled bills on agriculture and on reforming America’s immigration system.

    “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,” he said.

    “It’s encouraged our enemies, it’s emboldened our competitors and depressed our friends who look to us for steady leadership.”

    The president implicitly warned conservative “Tea Party” Republicans to stop using their most potent weapons — threatening to halt US debt payments and withholding government funding.

    “There’s no good reason why we can’t govern responsibly, despite our differences, without lurching from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis,” he said.

    “If you don’t like a particular policy or a particular president, then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election. Don’t break what our predecessors spent over two centuries building.”

    Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a possible 2016 Republican presidential hopeful, quickly rejected Obama’s remarks.

    “The President spoke about the divisive language in American politics. He’s one of the leading causes of it,” Rubio told Fox News.

    Obama appeared to have one eye on the next possible political crisis — set up in the language of the bill that ended the shutdown and the threat of default before an October 17 deadline.

    The compromise plan hashed out in the Senate and passed by the House only funds government until January 15 and extends US borrowing authority until February 7.

    It remains unclear if Republicans, politically wounded by their tactics this time around, will seek to use the levers of shutdown and default again.

    Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday there would be no government shutdown in the near future.

    “A government shutdown is off the table,” McConnell told National Review Online. “We’re not going to do it.”

    Thousands of federal workers trooped back to work on Thursday.

    Trains into Washington DC were again packed and the city’s downtown hummed with activity after being much quieter in recent weeks.

    Vice President Joe Biden was at the Environmental Protection Agency handing out muffins to returning workers.

    White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough meanwhile met executive branch employees at the gates of the White House, and handed out high fives.

    The “Panda Cam” at the National Zoo in Washington was up and running again for fans starved for two weeks of a glimpse of the Smithsonian Institution’s cutest new addition — a cub.

    The deal calls for negotiators from the Democratic-led Senate and Republican-led House to craft a framework for a long-term government budget by December 13, a Herculean task given the vast differences between the two chambers’ budget plans.

    In a sign of their intent to conduct good faith haggling, Senate Budget chair Patty Murray and House Budget chief Paul Ryan broke bread Thursday and pledged to seek “common ground” in reducing the deficit and reining in excess spending.

    “Our job over the next eight weeks is to find out what we can agree on, and we have agreed that we are going to look at everything in front of us,” Murray told reporters.

    Despite the ferocity of the shutdown drama, the parties did not engage on one of the most fundamental differences between them.

    They will now clash on what to do about the “sequester” — a round of arbitrary across-the-board spending cuts which came into force in March and will take another cut from the federal budget in January.

    AFP

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