President Barack Obama accused congressional Republicans of ignoring what needs to be done to ensure broad-based prosperity and focusing instead on slashing government spending even while the deficit is narrowing.
“Congress’s most fundamental job is passing a budget,” Obama said in remarks at the White House to mark the five-year anniversary of the financial crunch touched off by the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. “And Congress needs to get it done without triggering another crisis, without shutting down our government, or worse, threatening not to pay this country’s bills.”
With a military strike against Syria on hold, Obama is turning his attention to the economy, the budget and raising the federal debt ceiling, issues that will dominate the White House and congressional agendas the next few months.
To maintain the message throughout the week, the president is scheduled to speak to Business Roundtable on Sept. 18 in Washington and travel to Kansas City on Sept. 20 to visit a Ford Motor Co. (F:US) assembly plant.
Obama delayed making his remarks because of a shooting rampage at the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters in Washington that left at least 12 people dead.
“We will do everything in our power to make sure whoever carried out this cowardly act is held responsible,” he said before moving on his scheduled topic.
Obama aimed directly at congressional Republicans, calling on them to abolish the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration. Those cuts hurt the economy by delaying needed spending on infrastructure, research and education, he said.
“I’m still hoping that a light bulb goes off here,” he said, adding that refusal to compromise on a budget, which could lead to closing the government, “is the height of irresponsibility.”
Obama took the stage in front of a group of small-business owners, construction workers, homeowners, consumers and tax-cut recipients who the White House said have benefited from Obama’s economic programs.
The president is confronting potential clashes with Congress over funding the government in the new spending year that begins Oct. 1. Republicans also are threatening a fight over raising the $16.7 trillion debt limit, which the Treasury says will be reached about mid-October.
Many of Obama’s statements, while a reiteration of his previous views, take on added importance as congressional deadlines approach. These include Obama pressing Congress to end across-the-board spending cuts, his refusal to negotiate over raising the debt ceiling and his opposition to cutting funds for education, research or public works, such as roads and bridges.
Some Republicans are attempting to use those two must-do pieces of legislation as a pressure point to deny funding to implement the health-care law that Obama championed.
“That’s not an agenda for economic growth,” Obama said.
He asked whether opponents of the health-care law are willing to “tank the entire economy just because they can’t get their way on this issue?”
“Are they really willing to hurt people just to score political points?” he said. “I hope not.”
The federal budget deficit narrowed from more than 10 percent of the gross domestic product at the end of 2009 to 5.7 percent of GDP for the 12 months ended March 31 -- the smallest gap in four years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Obama said his stewardship of the economy has helped pull the country out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. He said steps he’s pushed for aided the recovery and began reversing the trends “that have been battering the middle class for decades.”
The Lehman Brothers bankruptcy filing on Sept. 15, 2008, helped set off a global crisis and deepened a recession that became the worst since the Great Depression. Unemployment (USURTOT) climbed to 10 percent, budget deficits surged beyond $1 trillion for four straight years and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 46 percent to its low of 676.53 on March 9, 2009.
Quarterly growth rates have averaged 2.2 percent in the four years since the slump’s end in June 2009. About 7.5 million jobs have been created, the unemployment rate has fallen to 7.3 percent and budget deficits will be less than $1 trillion, as tax collections improve. The S&P Index has gained 36.8 percent in that time.
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