Obama warns shutdown would jeopardize economic recovery

President Obama warned Friday that a government shutdown would endanger the economic recovery evidenced in March's jobless numbers. 

The president said that a shutdown, which would take place if congressional leaders cannot reach an agreement on spending by April 8, would jeopardize economic growth.

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"It appears that we're getting close to an agreement between leaders of both parties over how much spending we should cut," Obama said in remarks in Landover, Md., where he was promoting fuel-efficient cars and trucks, and announced his intention to transition federal government vehicles to cleaner fleets.

"We know that both sides are close; we know that a compromise is within reach," he said. "And we also know that if these budget negotiations break down, it could shut down the government and jeopardize our economic recovery."

Obama hailed a new report that showed the unemployment rate ticked down to 8.8 percent last month but said there is more work to be done.

"Although we got good news today, we have to keep the momentum going," he said.

There is just a week remaining for Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill to reach a final agreement on a measure funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year.

The administration has been involved in negotiations with leaders of both parties. Negotiators have acknowledged that both parties have agreed to cut $33 billion from the budget, though Republicans and Democrats both caution that no deal is final, especially because a final agreement might hinge on the kinds of cuts in the package.

Vice President Joe Biden has spoken this week with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and met with Senate Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill earlier this week. An agreement appears to be a growing possibility, but next Friday's deadline appears harder to meet than previous ones, because rank-and-file members of both parties have said they wouldn't pass another short-term measure to extend government operations.

Obama said that a shutdown wasn't an option and lobbed barbs toward more partisan voices in the spending fight.

"Given the encouraging news we received today on jobs, it would be the height of irresponsibility to halt our economic momentum because of the same old Washington politics," he said. "The American people don’t want us to retreat to our corners and refight the same old battles.  It can’t be 'my way or the highway' politics."

The White House has been generally jubilant in talking up last month's job creation. Press secretary Jay Carney returned from a short Twitter hiatus to talk up the figures, and Austan Goolsbee, the chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), called the numbers a validation of Obama's policies.

"We are seeing signs that the initiatives put in place by this administration — such as the payroll tax cut and business incentives for investment — are creating the conditions for sustained growth and job creation," Goolsbee wrote on the White House blog.

Obama hailed the drop in the unemployment rate in recent months as the most significant since 1984. And perhaps mindful of the pivotal role jobs will play in deciding the outcome of next fall's election, Obama said that creating jobs dominates his thinking.

"You should know that keeping the economy growing and making sure jobs are available is the first thing I think about when I wake up every morning," he said. "It’s the last thing I think about when I go to bed each night."

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