Obama says Washington has much work to do to regain public trust

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President Barack Obama emerged bruised but victorious from the latest budget war on Wednesday and said there was much work to do in a deeply divided Washington to win back the trust of the American people.

Mr Obama's firm stance against negotiating over extending the US debt ceiling, a position he staked out early this year and stuck to despite pressure to back off, appeared to have paid off as Congress was heading towards reopening the government and extending the US debt ceiling.

Mr Obama said in a brief appearance at the White House that he would give a more extensive speech about the way forward on Thursday.

"I've got some thoughts about how we can move forward in the remainder of the year and stay focused on the job at hand, because there is a lot of work ahead of us, including our need to earn back the trust of the American people that has been lost over the last few weeks," Mr Obama said.

While Mr Obama spoke of the need for bipartisanship, he ruffled feathers among some Republicans by speaking before the Republican-controlled House of Representatives had voted on a measure - just approved by the Democratic-led Senate - to end the fiscal impasse.

"Absurd," tweeted Mike Long, spokesman for House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy.

David Schnittger, deputy chief of staff to House Speaker John Boehner, took note of Mr Obama's comments on how politicians can disagree without being disagreeable by pointing to more inflammatory language that emanated from the White House during the fiscal crisis, like "gun to the head," "nuclear bomb" and"burning down the house."

Mr Obama said the federal government would begin reopening immediately as soon as he signs the legislation. The latest budget fight, he said, showed that despite their differences, Republicans and Democrats could work together.

He then pointed to two issues that floundered over partisan differences earlier this year, an overhaul of US immigration laws that the Senate passed but the House did not, and a long-delayed US$500 billion (S$621 billion) farm bill that collapsed in the House over the amount of food stamp spending involved.

Those items plus a "sensible" budget could get done "if everybody comes together in a spirit of how are we going to move this country forward and put the last three weeks behind us," he said.

"That's what I believe the American people are looking for - not a focus on politics, not a focus on elections, but a focus on the concrete steps that can improve their lives," he said.

Senior administration officials said Mr Obama's decision to refuse to negotiate over the debt ceiling was a direct outcome of the last close call with the US borrowing limit in 2011 when he was drawn into long, anguished negotiations that almost resulted in a default.

There was some concern at the White House that Americans would be critical if Obama were perceived to be refusing to negotiate, and thus compromise, with his political opponents.

But a number of polls conducted in recent weeks proved that Republicans were being held responsible for the crisis, the officials said.

The White House, led by chief of staff Denis McDonough and his deputy, Rob Nabors, joined with Democrats in the Senate to encourage party unity, an effort that paid off with Democrats working together.

The deal that emerged to end the impasse sets up more debt and budget deadlines in the weeks and months ahead.

"Hopefully next time, it won't be in the 11th hour," said Mr Obama.

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