With the U.S. government reopened after a near-unconditional surrender from congressional Republicans on more federal borrowing and Obamacare, President Barack Obama praised the federal government's importance to every American's life.
President Barack Obama speaks at the White House about the reopening of the U.S. government following the shutdown, Oct. 17, 2013. Obama warned that America's political dysfunction had encouraged its enemies and depressed its friends, and said the crisis had left "no winners" in Washington. (AFP/Getty Images)
"We hear all the time about how government is the problem," the president said Thursday at the White House, hours after signing an agreement reached between the Senate and House of Representatives.
He continued, "Well, it turns out we rely on it in a whole lot of ways. Not only does it keep us strong through our military and our law enforcement, it plays a vital role in caring for our seniors and our veterans, educating our kids, making sure our workers are trained for the jobs that are being created, arming our businesses with the best science and technology so they can compete with companies from other countries."
He even invoked the Founding Fathers in praise of an activist state.
"So let's work together to make government work better instead of treating it like an enemy or purposely making it work worse," Obama continued. "That's not what the founders of this nation envisioned when they gave us the gift of self-government."
The president spoke in the State Dining Room of the White House to White House employees, some whom were furloughed during the shutdown.
"Welcome back. What you do is important. It matters. You defend our country overseas. You deliver benefits to our troops, who have earned them, when they come home. You guard our borders. You protect our civil rights," Obama said.
On Wednesday night, the Senate and House voted overwhelmingly for a bill to reopen the government until another deal is reached in mid-January, and increase the debt limit until February. The federal debt is just below $17 trillion. Obama signed the bill after midnight.
Democrats staved off attempts by a divided Republican Party to defund or delay parts of Obama's signature health care law.
On Thursday morning, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough greeted returning workers who were furloughed during the shutdown as they entered the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House. Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden greeted workers returning to the Environmental Protection Agency.
During the shutdown, approval rating for Republicans dropped to 28 percent, and to 37 percent for Obama. The president acknowledged public frustration with Washington.
"Now that the government has 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, and that's grow this economy, create good jobs, strengthen the middle class, educate our kids, lay the foundation for broad-based prosperity and get our fiscal house in order for the long haul," Obama said.
Setting the agenda forward, Obama called for a negotiated budget deal, a farm bill and comprehensive immigration reform -- which the Senate passed earlier this year but appears unlikely to pass the House.
"The majority of Americans think this is the right thing to do and it's sitting there waiting for the House to pass it," Obama said of immigration reform. "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. This can and should get done by the end of this year."