After spending a week defending his embattled health care law, who has had a bumpy time with the rollout of the insurance marketplace website, HealthCare.gov, President Barack Obama decided to dedicate his weekly address released Saturday morning, Nov. 2, 2013 to urging Congress to pass a budget for the remainder of the 2014 fiscal year. Earlier in the week on Wednesday, Oct. 30 the "budget conference committee" met for their first meeting in an attempt to hammer out a bipartisan budget that would please both the Democratic controlled Senate and Republican controlled House of Representatives and would be signed by President Obama. The first meeting was not productive, and the committee next meets on Nov. 13 with a Dec. 13 deadline.
President Obama's weekly address entitled "Passing a Budget that Reflects Our Priorities" focused on urging Congress to pass a long term budget for the 2014 fiscal year. The President's weekly address reiterated many of the points he made during a speech at the SelectUSA Investment Summit held on Thursday, Oct. 31.
The President decided to go back to his message on the economy, and job creation, stronger suits for him, especially in light of the many troubles plaguing his health care law's website HealthCare.gov and the landmark legislation's rollout. The Republicans chose to focus their weekly address instead on Obamacare and its shortcomings in an address filled with snappy rhetoric delivered by Sen. Dan Coats, R-IN.
The President pointed out that the recent crises regarding both the budget and debt ceiling undermine economic growth. Only passing a budget would send a clear message to the world that American economy is stable and it would also allow for economic growth. From the start of his address Obama stressed that "My top priority as President: growing our economy, creating good jobs, strengthening security and opportunity for the middle class."
Obama bragged about the improved conditions of the economy under his tenure include such accomplishments such as; "Over the past three and a half years, our businesses have created over seven and a half million new jobs. And this week, the Treasury confirmed that since I took office, we've cut our deficits by more than half." However, the President indicated that more needs to be done; "We need to grow and create more good jobs faster." He also pledged his commitment to do so; "That's my driving focus. And I'll go anywhere and do anything to make it happen."
President Obama said the problem is that his priority has not been the same as Congress' and they need to share that "driving focus." Continuing, Obama said; "It begins by ending what has done more than anything else to undermine our economy over the past few years - and that's the constant cycle of manufactured crises and self-inflicted wounds."
Obama thinks that Republican's announcement that they want to avoid any further government shutdowns or debt ceiling crises is a step in the right direction. He recounted; "I was glad to hear the Republican leader in the Senate say this week that they won't pursue another government shutdown or threaten another default on our debt. Because we shouldn't be injuring ourselves every few months - we should be investing in ourselves." Mentioning the budget conference's first meeting this past week, President Obama said; "And one way to do that is through the budget that Congress started working on this week."
Obama also spent the remaining part of his address emphasizing the priorities that need to be included in a successful budget that would most benefit the country. The President believes prioritizing is important, because "if we don't pick the right priorities now, make the right choices now, we could hinder growth and opportunity for decades." Among Obama's budget priorities are; "Building new roads, and bridges, and schools, and airports… Educating our kids and our workers… Investing in science, technology, and research." All of which the President considers "vital for our economic future."
At the same Obama denounced the automated sequester spending cuts, which he called "the obsession with cutting just for the sake of cutting," and urged Congress to pass a budget that averts the cuts, because according to the President "our deficits are getting smaller - not bigger. On my watch, they're falling at the fastest pace in 60 years." He stated that "Congress should pass a budget that cuts things we don't need, and closes wasteful tax loopholes that don't help create jobs." His comments were taking credit for a government report released this past week that indicated the deficit is down to $680 billion, it's lowest since 2008.
In conclusion, President Obama asked Congress to create a budget that includes both "growth and fiscal responsibility…. Because in America, our economy doesn't grow from the top-down. It grows from the middle-class out. And as long as I am President, our national mission will remain building an America where everyone belongs, and everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead."
The budget conference committee consists of 29 lawmakers from both the House and Senate, and is bipartisan consisting of 15 Democratic and 14 Republican members. The committee has until Dec. 13 to come to an agreement so a bill can be passed before January when the short-term spending bill times out. The budget conference has two goals in creating their 2014 budget; determine spending allotment for 2014 and substitute the sequester cuts. However, the two parties' main disagreement remains over finding new funding revenue, a must according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV.
Both leaders of the budget committees in the respective houses of Congress realize crafting an agreement will not be an "easy" task. Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee commented after the meeting; "The bar is pretty low right now. Let's see if we can clear it," said. "We'll restore confidence in our economy if we do that. We've got our work cut out for us. It's not going to be easy."
While Sen. Patty Murray, chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee stated; "I believe that this bipartisan budget conference offers us the opportunity to rebuild some trust, find a path to compromise, and work together to create jobs and boost our fragile economy. It won't be easy. It will require both sides to step out of their comfort zone and ideological corners, and we won't be able to tackle every one of our nation's challenges in these few short weeks."
The conference committee next meets on Nov. 13 and Congress only has 16 "legislative days" left in the year to work. If the committee cannot come to an agreement, another stop-gap spending bill can be passed or the government can run on the previous spending allotment for the rest of the year.
President Obama is right that the continuing crises impede the economy, and that passing a bipartisan budget is the only way to restore confidence in the American economy. Although the budget conference committee has very little time, they should pass a budget to prevent further upheavals. Not only will it help economic growth and confidence as the President indicated, but would help the Republican Party that has faced the brunt of the blame for the recent government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis. In passing a budget that does not completely compromise their principles would go far in helping the GOP retain the House of Representatives in the 2014 midterm elections.
Although a bipartisan agreement could be beneficial for the upcoming campaign cycle, it would also do a lot in restoring American and confidence in Washington, proving that Congress has not completely resorted to being a petty partisan place, that gets nothing done, and that when necessary they overcome their differences and put what is best for the country first.