(Applause.) It has to be Washington's highest priority. It's certainly my highest priority. (Applause.) Unfortunately, over the past couple of years in particular, Washington hasn't just ignored this problem. Too often, Washington's made things worse. (Applause.)
And I have to say that, you know -- because I'm looking around the room -- I've got some friends here not just who are Democrats; I've got some friends here who are Republicans and who worked -- (applause) -- you know, I worked with in the state legislature, and they did great work. But right now, what we've got in Washington -- we've seen a sizable group of Republican lawmakers suggest that they wouldn't vote to pay the very bills that Congress rang up. And that fiasco harmed a fragile recovery in 2011, and we can't afford to repeat that.
Then, rather than reduce our deficits with a scalpel, by cutting out programs we don't need, fixing ones that we do need that maybe are in need of a reform -- making government more efficient -- instead of doing that, we've got folks who have insisted on leaving in place a meat cleaver called the sequester that's cost jobs. It's harmed growth, it's hurt our military, it's gutted investments in education and science and medical research. (Applause.)
Almost every credible economist will tell you it's been a huge drag on this recovery, and it means that we're underinvesting in the things that this country needs to make it a magnet for good jobs.
Then over the last six months, this gridlock's gotten worse. I didn't think that was possible. (Laughter.) The good news is a growing number of Republican senators are looking to join their Democratic counterparts and try to get things done in the Senate. So that's good news. (Applause.)
For example, they worked together on an immigration bill that economists say will boost our economy by more than a trillion dollars, strengthen border security, make the system work. But you've got a faction of Republicans in the House who won't even give that bill a vote, and that same group gutted a farm bill that America's farmers depend on but also America's most vulnerable children depend on.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Boo! (Scattered applause.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: And if you ask some of these folks, some of these folks mostly in the House, about their economic agenda, how it is that they'll strengthen the middle class, they'll shift the topic to out-of-control government spending, despite the fact that we've cut the deficit by nearly half as a share of the economy since I took office. (Cheers, applause.)