Obama chides Republicans on spending cuts at school event

Reuters

By Mark Felsenthal

NEW YORK, Oct 25 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama warnedcongressional Republicans on Friday that their next budgetnegotiations will need to be about more than just spending cutsafter a fiscal stalemate that resulted in a 16-day governmentshutdown.

Visiting a school that offers students a fast track totechnology jobs to underline his point, Obama said some taxloopholes need to be eliminated to create more tax revenue forthe government that can be used to trigger more job growth.

"I don't want to hear the same old stuff about how Americacan't afford to invest in the things that have always made usstrong. Don't tell me we can afford to shut down the government,which cost our government billions of dollars, but we can'tafford to invest in our education system," he said in a speech.

After a bruising budget impasse that shut down the federalgovernment for 16 days, lawmakers on Wednesday were to beginreconciling vastly different spending plans put forward by theDemocratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-led House ofRepresentatives.

In a sign that tensions still exist over the bitter budgetfeud, Obama could not resist scolding Republicans.

"By the way, I just sat in on a lesson called 'Real WorldMath,' which got me thinking whether it's too late to sendCongress here for a remedial course," he said.

The Democratic president was visiting Pathways in TechnologyEarly College High School in Brooklyn, whose curriculum he haspraised as a beacon for the future, to contrast his budgetpriorities with those of Republicans.

Obama spoke about budget strategy Friday with SenateDemocratic leader Harry Reid, House Democratic leader NancyPelosi, and the top Democrats on the conference committee,Senator Patty Murray and Representative Chris Van Hollen.

Obama "reiterated a shared principle that we should focusfirst and foremost on how we can grow our economy and creategood jobs with good wages for middle class families," WhiteHouse spokesman Josh Earnest said aboard Air Force One.

The president's renewed focus on the budget comes just overa week after the end of a stalemate that resulted in thegovernment shutdown and threatened a U.S. debt default. Sincethen, Obama has been back on the defensive over the seriouslyflawed online gateway to health insurance that is central to hissignature 2010 healthcare law known as Obamacare.

White House aides said the president was looking ahead tothe next round of the budget debate and wanted to contrast hisgoals of boosting government spending on things like schools andinfrastructure with those of Republicans, who are focused onreining in the nation's debt and deficit and shrinking the roleof government.

Obama reminded the audience that the deficit is projected toshrink this year to about half of what it was in 2009. He saidhe is open to further deficit reduction, and to trimmingbenefits to be paid out over the long term under the SocialSecurity retirement and Medicare healthcare program for theaged, but only if they are accompanied by ending tax breaks andincreasing revenues to the government.

"We need a budget that is responsible, that is fiscallyprudent, but a budget that cuts what we don't need, closeswasteful tax loopholes that don't create jobs, freeing upresources to invest in the things that actually do help us grow,things like education and scientific research and infrastructure- roads, bridges, airports," he said.

LOWER EXPECTATIONS

Some lawmakers taking part in the budget negotiationsexpressed lower expectations.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said on Thursday anew round of budget negotiations starting next week should focusmore narrowly on replacing automatic spending cuts rather thanan elusive "grand bargain." Ryan will lead Republicans on the29-member panel that is trying to reach a deal before Dec. 15.

Both parties want to minimize the impact of theacross-the-board sequester cuts that went into effect in Marchand avoid a further $109 billion round of reductions due on Jan.15.

The Pathways in Technology high school earned praise fromthe president during his State of the Union speech this year fora six-year program that allows students to earn a communitycollege degree as well as a chance to work with the partnercompany of the school, IBM.

The school, which also collaborates with the City Universityof New York, allows students to get an associate of arts degreein computers or engineering.

Obama praised the school as a model for efforts to competewith the education systems of countries like Germany, which hesaid was preparing students for technical jobs immediately afterhigh school.

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