Obama Says Congress Must Keep Priority on Education

President Barack Obama warned that other nations are pulling ahead of the U.S. in global economic competition as he campaigned for his budget goals at a high school and a Democratic fundraising event in New York.

The president yesterday urged Congress to pass a budget that sets the “right priorities” by putting money into education and other programs that will help advance economic growth.

The U.S. needs “some political courage in Washington,” Obama told students, faculty and elected officials at Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Brooklyn. “We need to work together to grow the economy, not shrink it”

Without directly mentioning congressional Republicans, the president said that the 16-day partial government shutdown this month demonstrated skewed priorities, and he criticized “this obsession with cutting just for the sake of cutting” when it comes to the federal budget.

“We just went through an episode that expressed Washington’s dysfunctions in ways that we haven’t seen in quite some time,” Obama said last night at the fundraising event.

Obama is pressing for his spending priorities as Democrats and Republicans seek to negotiate a budget agreement over the next several weeks.

The deal to end the government shutdown and avert the threat of a U.S. default set Dec. 13 as the deadline to come up with plan on taxes and spending. Funding of the government at Republican-backed levels runs through Jan. 15.

Strategy Session

Obama held a conference call earlier yesterday to talk about strategy with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray and Representative Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee.

“We don’t have to choose between growth and fiscal responsibility,” Obama said during his appearance at the Brooklyn high school. “We can do both.”

The school visit was part of the administration’s continuing effort to promote education in science, technology, engineering and math as a foundation for a high-tech economy.

The school, known as P-Tech, was cited by Obama in his State of the Union address earlier this year as an example of collaboration between schools and private industry to enhance education.

Before his remarks, Obama toured the school and spoke with small groups of students about their interests and studies. He told one group that even if they don’t choose careers in science, technology or math, “just the discipline of training yourself to think systematically” is valuable.

‘Common Sense’

At the fundraiser last night for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the president expressed concern that “ideology ends up overcoming common sense” in Washington.

“Too often, our politics have come detached from the day to-day lives of ordinary people,” Obama said.

The president attended a reception hosted by Kathryn Chenault, wife of American Express Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Chenault, followed by a dinner hosted by Kampack Inc. CEO Karen Mehiel.

Among the 60 guests set to attend were producer Harvey Weinstein, BET Holdings LLC Chairman Debra Lee, and former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith, according to a party official, who asked not to be identified to talk about the event at the Chenaults’ residence. Pelosi, of California, and New York Representative Steve Israel, the chairman of the campaign committee, also are scheduled to be there.

Ticket prices were $16,200 per person.

Private Dinner

Obama followed the DCCC fundraiser with a private dinner event with about 20 people to raise money for the Democratic National Committee before returning to Washington.

The DCCC, the campaign arm of House Democrats, raised $8.4 million in September, compared with $5.3 million for its Republican counterpart. All of the House’s 435 seats are up for election in 2014 and Democrats are attempting to regain a majority in the chamber. Republicans currently control the House 231-200, with four seats vacant.

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