WASHINGTON -- President Obama lectured members of Congress on Thursday on their responsibility to serve the country, urging them to negotiate with him on the budget and immigration reform instead of endangering the country with games of "brinkmanship."
Decrying the "pressure from extremes" he blamed for the 16-day government shutdown that ended Thursday morning, Obama said political opponents should instead try to affect government at the ballot box.
The shutdown had proven that government is valuable to Americans, he said.
If people object to some government policies, "push to change it," he added, "but don't break it."
"Let's work together" to make government better, he said, "instead of treating it like an enemy."
Obama delivered the admonishment in a morning address at the White House as he welcomed dozens of furloughed employees back to work. The shutdown ended in the early morning hours of the day after the House and Senate approved a measure funding government and allowing the Treasury to keep borrowing money to pay the government's bills.
With the crisis in the rearview mirror, the White House immediately began trying to turn attention to the next round of debt and budget deadlines. To that list Obama also added immigration reform, a subject administration officials hope House Republicans may now be willing to resurrect.
If House Republicans want to "heal themselves" after weeks of a bruising political fight, one administration official said, maybe they will turn to the languishing Senate bill to reform immigration law.
"This can and should get done by the end of this year," Obama said Thursday morning.
In closing his morning remarks, he directly addressed members of his staff assembled in the State Dining Room on the first day back to work for many of them.
He praised what he called "dedicated and patriotic" federal workers, particularly the "young people who come to this city to serve . . . because they think it matters."
"What you do is important," he told them. "Don't let anybody else tell you differently."