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No victory lap for President Obama

By Kristen Welker
     NBC News

It was far from a victory lap.  Speaking from the Rose Garden Tuesday, President Obama called the plan to raise the debt ceiling, “an important first step to ensuring that as a nation we live within our means.”  Mr. Obama then proceeded to lash out at Congress saying, “it shouldn’t take the risk of default – the risk of economic catastrophe –  to get folks in this town to work together and do their jobs.” 

The duality of the President’s remarks capped off a long process that has been rife with heated debate and partisan wrangling. After the speech, Mr. Obama signed the compromise plan with just hours to spare before the nation would have defaulted on its loans.

The President also seemed to want to turn the page on the debt limit debate by focusing on the future.  He reiterated his call for Congress to take some immediate steps which he says would create jobs including: extending tax cuts for middle-class families, passing patent reform, and passing a set of trade deals.  The familiar remarks were an indication that the President is trying to steer the conversation back to jobs and the economy and away from the ugly debate that has dominated the nation’s Capital for the past several months. 

But, it’s not clear if the nation is ready to move on.  According to a recent Washington Post, Pew Research Center poll, almost three quarters of Americans had a negative word to describe how they viewed the budget negotiations.  The top words included, “ridiculous, disgusting and stupid.”

Acknowledging that public frustration, the President reiterated another familiar sentiment: “Voters may have chosen divided government, but they sure didn’t vote for dysfunctional government.” When White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, was asked if the President felt that he bore some of the responsibility for the “dysfunction,” Carney would only say, ”I think that this President from very early on in this process made abundantly clear his willingness to compromise, his willingness to accept the fact that he would not in this environment, in this divided government, get everything that he wanted.” 

The compromise plan will increase the nation’s $14.3 trillion borrowing limit through 2012 and will be matched with about $1 trillion dollars in deficit reductions.  Under the second phase of the plan, a bipartisan, bicameral “Super-Committee” will be charged with identifying about $1.5 trillion dollars more in deficit reductions (through entitlement and tax reform).  If the committee does not act by Thanksgiving, mandatory across the board cuts go into effect to defense and discretionary spending.  Many Democrats are upset because they say the plan will unfairly target the poor and the middle class, and some Republicans argue the cuts don’t go deep enough. 

In essence, few were celebrating the passage of the bill, but everyone was breathing a sigh of relief having averted what many economists warned would be a global financial crisis if the debt ceiling were not raised.  “We’ve got to do everything in our power to grow this economy and put American back to work” Mr. Obama warned.  He and everyone else in D.C. hopes the nation can now, finally, move forward.  

President Obama delivers a statement on the bipartisan debt bill that recently passed in both the House and Senate. The legislation pairs an increase in the government's borrowing cap with promises of more than $2 trillion in budget cuts over the upcoming decade.