The president also warned lawmakers to be mindful of the budget that would fund the government for the remainder of the year and urged bipartisanship. The House today began debate on a contentious package proposed by Republicans that, they say, will save U.S. taxpayers more than $100 billion, compared with the president's fiscal year 2011 request.
Democrats charge that the GOP plan will halt economic recovery and hamper growth. But just hours after his press conference, Obama threatened to veto the bill, saying in a statement that the bill would "undermine our ability to out-educate, out-build, and out-innovate the rest of the world," and "sharply undermine core government functions and investments key to economic growth and job creation."
"The key here is for people to be practical and not score political points," he said during his press conference. "That's true for all of us."
Obama also addressed the uprisings in the Arab world, and specifically assailed the Iranian government's response to the recent protests that have erupted since the uprising in Egypt overthrew its 30-year-long president, Hosni Mubarak. He said it's "ironic" that the Iranian regime has hailed the Egyptian revolt while suppressing its own protests.
"What's been different is the Iranian government's response, which is to shoot people and beat people and arrest people," the president said. "My hope and expectation is that we're going to continue to see the people of Iran have the courage to be able to express their yearning for greater freedoms and a more representative government, understanding that America cannot ultimately dictate what happens inside of Iran any more than it could inside of Egypt."
The White House drew some criticism for its measured response in the initial days of the uprising in Egypt, and for not denouncing Mubarak, who refused to step down despite protesters' demands. Mubarak was a longtime ally of the United States who has played a key role in Israel-Palestine negotiations.
The president today defended the U.S. message on Egypt, saying it was consistent.
"We were mindful that it was important for this to remain an Egyptian event, that the United States did not become the issue, but that we sent out a very clear message that we believed in an orderly transition, a meaningful transition, and a transition that needed to happen not later, but sooner. And we were consistent on that message throughout," he said.
While the president hailed the reforms the military is planning to make in Egypt, he expressed concern about stability in the greater Arab world, where the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings have sparked a number of protests, from Jordan to Yemen to Algeria.
"The world is changing," Obama said. "You have a young, vibrant generation within the Middle East that is looking for greater opportunity. ... You've got to get out ahead of change; you can't be behind the curve."
Obama also called on the release of Raymond Davis, a U.S. Embassy staff member who was arrested in Pakistan after he shot and killed two men last month.
Pakistani officials allege Davis is a spy, and their refusal to release him on diplomatic grounds has escalated tensions between the two countries. Davis is a former special forces soldier who was carrying a fully loaded gun, a bullet proof vest, a GPS device, and a camera full of photos of what Lahore police call sensitive areas of the city and the border with India.