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Obama: shutdown encouraged US foes, depressed friends

US President Barack Obama speaks about the reopening of government following a shutdown in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, October 17, 2013
US President Barack Obama speaks about the reopening of government following a shutdown in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, October 17, 2013

US President Barack Obama warned Thursday that America's political dysfunction had encouraged its enemies and depressed its friends, and said the crisis had left "no winners" in Washington.

In trying to heal the wounds of the last two weeks of political drama, Obama hoped to avoid a new round of brinkmanship 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 threatens the economy and squandered the trust of the American people.

Visitors listen to a guide at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum after the museum's reopening on October 17, 2013 in Washington, DC
Visitors listen to a guide at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum after the museum's reopening on October 17, 2013 in Washington, DC

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.

Obama urged Congress, specifically Republicans in the House of Representatives, to now come together to pass stalled legislation on agriculture and on reforming America's immigration system.

"These last few weeks have inflicted completely unnecessary damage on our economy," Obama said.

"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 added.

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

The president's message was a warning to conservative "Tea Party" Republicans to stop using their most potent weapons -- threatening to halt US debt payments and withholding government funding -- for narrow political ends.

He said that sharp ideological disagreements should not stop leaders from cooperating.

"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."

Obama appeared to have more than 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 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.

Thousands of federal workers trooped back to work on Thursday.

People jog near the US Capitol building on the morning after a bipartisan bill was passed by the House and the Senate to reopen the government and raise the debt limit, on October 17, 2013 in Washington, DC
People jog near the US Capitol building on the morning after a bipartisan bill was passed by the House and the Senate to reopen the government and raise the debt limit, on October 17, 2013 in Washington, DC

Trains into Washington DC were again packed and the city's downtown hummed with activity after being eerily empty 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, sparked by Republicans who wanted to defund or delay Obama's signature health care law -- the parties did not engage on one of the most fundamental differences between them.

Smithsonian museum workers clean leaves from a street in Washington, DC, on October 17, 2013
Smithsonian museum workers clean leaves from a street in Washington, DC, on October 17, 2013

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 swipe at the federal budget in January.

Stocks slipped slightly Thursday, after a roller coaster ride over the last few weeks during the shutdown drama.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.35 percent to 15320.46 in mid-morning trade.

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