By Kevin Bogardus - 09-21-13 09:45 PM ET
Photo by Getty Images
President Obama gave a rousing speech at the annual Congressional Black Caucus dinner on Saturday, pledging not to negotiate with Republicans over raising the debt ceiling.
Obama said Republicans in Congress are willing to throw the economy into peril in their effort to defund the Affordable Care Act. Some in the GOP have also threatened not to raise the debt ceiling in an attempt to block ObamaCare.
The president said he won’t negotiate over the debt ceiling and that the healthcare reform act will remain the law of the land.
“Let me say as clearly as I can: It is not going to happen. We have come too far. We have overcome far darker threats than those,” Obama said to rising applause from the crowd at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
The federal government is set to run out of funds on Oct. 1. On Friday, the House passed legislation to keep the government running until mid-December but defund ObamaCare. That bill is expected to be rejected by the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.
Obama also touched upon several items on his second-term agenda, like raising the minimum wage, universal pre-school, bringing down higher education costs and gun control.
He talked about gun violence in Chicago this week as well as the mass shooting at Washington’s Navy Yard on Monday.
The president said children should be “free from the fear that they will be struck down by a stray bullet.”
Obama recalled his speech last month celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, citing civil rights leaders like Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Rev. Joseph Lowery in the process.
“Equality is not just an abstract. It’s not just a formality. It has to go hand-and-hand with economic opportunity,” Obama said.
At times, Obama’s relationship with the CBC has been strained as they have seen their constituents suffer in the struggling economy. Two years ago, the president told the caucus to stick with him and “stop grumbling” at their annual dinner.
On Saturday, the lawmakers seemed to be more sympathetic to Obama who has been grappling with Republicans in Washington’s latest budget crisis.
“I was taking photos with the CBC folks. Every one of them came up and said, “Oh, you hang in there. You hang in there man,’” Obama said to some laughs.
The president said he told the lawmakers not to worry and he’s ready to finish the work before him.
“We're going to have to keep marching. And I'm proud that I'll be, at least for the next three and a half years here in Washington and then a whole lot of years after that, I'm going to be marching with you," Obama said to cheers.