My challenge, then, is I've got to get something passed. I've got to get 218 votes in the House of Representatives.
Now, the gentleman asked about the 14th Amendment. There is -- there's a provision in our Constitution that speaks to making sure that the United States meets its obligations. And there have been some suggestions that a President could use that language to basically ignore this debt ceiling rule, which is a statutory rule. It's not a constitutional rule. I have talked to my lawyers. They do not -- they are not persuaded that that is a winning argument. So the challenge for me is to make sure that we do not default, but to do so in a way that is as balanced as possible and gets us at least a down payment on solving this problem.
Now, we're not going to solve the entire debt and deficit in the next 10 days. So there's still going to be more work to do after this. And what we're doing is to try to make sure that any deal that we strike protects our core commitments to Medicare and Medicaid recipients, to senior citizens, to veterans. We want to make sure that student loans remain affordable. We want to make sure that poor kids can still get a checkup, that food stamps are still available for folks who are desperately in need. We want to make sure that unemployment insurance continues for those who are out there looking for work.
So there are going to be a certain set of equities that we're not willing to sacrifice. And I've said we have to have revenue as part of the package.
But I'm sympathetic to your view that this would be easier if I could do this entirely on my own. (Laughter.) It would mean all these conversations I've had over the last three weeks I could have been spending time with Malia and Sasha instead. But that's not how our democracy works. And as I said, Americans made a decision about divided government. I'm going to be making the case as to why I think we've got a better vision for the country. In the meantime, we've got a responsibility to do our job.
But it was an excellent question. Thank you. (Applause.)
All right. Young lady right here, right in the front. Hold on, let's get you a mic so we can hear you. Stand up. What's your name?
Q My name is Kasa (phonetic.) I have two questions. One is, is there anything -- like, obviously you've had a successful presidency, but is there anything --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there's not obvious to everyone. (Laughter and applause.) But I appreciate you thinking it's obvious.
Q I think it's successful, that's all that matters. But is there anything you regret or would have done differently? And my second question is, can I shake your hand? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I'll come and shake your hand, I promise. I will. (Laughter.) Do I have any major regrets? You know, when I think -- and I think about this all the time. I mean, I'm constantly re-running in my head did we make the right move here, could we have done more there. I think, overall, in an extremely difficult situation, we've made good choices; we've made good decisions. (Applause.)
But we've been constrained, even when we had a Democratic Congress, because the way the Senate works these days is you've got to get essentially 60 votes in order to get anything through the Senate. Frank remembers this because we got a lot of good stuff out of the House that never survived in the Senate. So because of what's -- the rules of the filibuster in the Senate, it meant that, on economic policy, I might have done some things more aggressively if I could have convinced more Republicans in the Senate to go along.
I do think that in the first year, right after we found out that 4 million people had lost their jobs before I was sworn in, I think that I could have told the American people more clearly how tough this was going to be, how deep and long-lasting this recession was going to be.
That's always a balance for a President. On the one hand, you want to project confidence and optimism. And remember, in that first year, people weren't sure whether the banking system was going to melt down, and whether we were going to go into a Great Depression. And so it was important for me to let the American people know we're going to be all right; we're going to be able to get through this.
On the other hand, I think maybe people's expectations were that somehow we were going to be able to solve this in a year. And we knew pretty soon after I took office that this was going to last for a while -- because, historically, when you have recessions that arise out of financial crises, they last a lot longer than the usual business cycle recessions.
Beyond that, I also think that over the first two years I was so focused on policy and getting the policy right, that sometimes I forgot part of my job is explaining to the American people why we're doing this policy and where we're going. And so I think a lot of people started trying to figure out, well, how do all these pieces fit together. The auto industry has been saved, and that was a good thing. Well, that saved a million jobs, but people weren't sure how did that relate to our housing strategy, or how did that relate to health care. And so I think that was something that I could have done better.
That's just two items on what I'm sure are a very long list -- (laughter) -- of things that I could do better. But having said that, the basic thrust of my first two-and-a-half years have been entirely consistent with what I said I was going to do during the campaign -- because what I promised was that not only were we going to deal with the immediate crisis, I said we are going to start laying the foundation for us to solve some of these long-term problems.
So when we changed, for example, the student loan program to take billions of dollars that were going to the banks, as middlemen in the student loan program, and redirected them so that students -- millions more students would benefit from things like Pell grants, that was in pursuit of this larger goal that we have to once again be the nation that has the highest percentage of college graduates and that we have the best-skilled workforce, because that's what it's going to take to win the future.
When we initiated health care reform, it was based on a long-term assessment that if we don't get control of our health care costs and stop sending people to the emergency room for very expensive care, but instead make sure they've got adequate coverage so that they are getting regular checkups and they are avoiding preventable diseases like diabetes -- that unless we do that, we're going to go broke just on health care spending.
When we made the biggest investment in clean energy in our history over the last two-and-a-half years, it's because of my belief that we have to free ourselves from the lock-grip that oil has on our economic well-being and our security.
'The United States of America does not run out without paying the tab'
Remarks of President Barack Obama at the University of Maryland
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