CUOMO: Oh, I remember it.
OBAMA: ... you remember -- you remember how the bill gets passed? You know, the -- you know, the House and the Senate try to work out their differences. They pass something. They send it to me, and potentially I sign it.
And, you know, we like to make things complicated, but this is actually not that complicated. The job of Congress -- Congress doesn't have a whole lot of core responsibilities. One core responsibility is passing a budget, which they have not done yet. The other core responsibility that they've got is to pay the bills that they've already accrued.
And if Congress simply does those two things when they get back, then the economy can continue to recover, and folks out there who are working hard, who are trying to find a job, will have some sense of stability and we can start thinking about things like college education and some of the big structural changes that we have to continue to make to ensure that we're competitive.
CUOMO: Nobody knows better than you that it is a big part of the job of the president to make that happen. How much of the lack of action in Washington do you put on yourself, in terms of blame?
OBAMA: Well, look, ultimately, the buck stops with me. And so any time we are not moving forward on things that should be simple, I get frustrated. And, you know, I've said before -- and I continue to say -- you know, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get Congress -- and Republicans in Congress in particular -- to think less about politics and party and think more about what's good for the country.
There is nobody out there who thinks that us not paying bills we've already racked up is good for the economy, is appropriate, that America losing its reputation and the full faith and credit of the United States would somehow improve the prospects of working families or businesses around the country. Nobody thinks that. So why are we even talking about? Why aren't we just getting that done?
When it comes to the budget, we know that we shouldn't be cutting more on core investments like education that are going to help us grow in the future. And we've already seen the deficit cut in half. It's going down faster than any time in the last 60 years. So why would we make more cuts in education, more cuts in basic research? Nobody thinks that's a good idea.
And then, finally, now what we've got is Republicans talking about the idea that they would shut down the government -- bad for the economy, bad for not just people who work for the government, but all the contractors who -- and the defense folks and everybody who is impacted by the services that they receive from the federal government, we should shut that down, because Republicans, after having taken 40 votes to try to get rid of Obamacare, see this as their last gasp.
Nobody thinks that's good for the middle class. So the question is ultimately, if you are putting the American people first, if you are prioritizing them, then this shouldn't be that difficult. And I've made this argument to my Republican friends privately, and, by the way, sometimes they say to me privately, "I agree with you, but I'm worried about a primary from, you know, somebody in the Tea Party back in my district," or, "I'm worried about what Rush Limbaugh is going to say about me on the radio. And so you got to understand, I'm -- it's really difficult."
Well, you know what? I can't force these folks to do what's right for the American people, because they're independently elected, it's a separate branch of government, and I don't have a vote in Congress. But what I sure as heck can do is stay focused on what I know will be good for the American people.
CUOMO: Last point on that. There's been a lot of discussion about what the NSA does and the surveillance programs.
CUOMO: You have said it is not the business of the U.S. government to spy on its own people.
CUOMO: But the more that seems to come out, the more questions seem to be raised. Are you confident that you know everything that's going on within that agency and that you can say to the American people, "It's all done the right way"?
OBAMA: Yes, but what I've also said is that it can only work if the American people trust what's going on. And what's been clear since the disclosures that were made by Mr. Snowden is that people don't have enough information and aren't confident enough that, between all the safeguards and checks that we put in place within the executive branch, and the federal court oversight that takes place on the program, and congressional oversight, people are still concerned as to whether their e-mails are being read or their phone calls are being listened to.
CUOMO: Especially when they hear that they are and mistakes are made. You know, it shakes your confidence.
OBAMA: Well -- yeah, but I think it's important -- for example, this latest revelation that was made, what was learned was that NSA had inadvertently, accidentally pulled the e-mails of some Americans in violation of their own rules, because of technical problems that they didn't realize. They presented those problems to the court. The court said, "This isn't going to cut it. You're going to have to improve the safeguards, given these technical problems." That's exactly what happened. So the point is, is that all these safeguards, checks, audits, oversight worked.
Now, I think there are legitimate concerns that people have that technology is moving so quick that, you know, at some point, does the technology outpace the laws that are in place and the protections that are in place? And does some of these systems -- do some of these systems end up being like a loaded gun out there that somebody at some future point could abuse? Because there are no allegations, and I am very confident -- knowing the NSA and how they operate -- that purposefully somebody is out there trying to abuse this program or listen in on people's e-mail -- or...
CUOMO: You're confident in that?
OBAMA: I am confident in that. But what I recognize is that we're going to have to continue to improve the safeguards and, as technology moves forward, that means that we may be able to build technologies that give people more assurance, and we do have to do a better job of giving people confidence in how these programs work.
So we have set up an entire website. We're releasing more documents that previously were considered classified. What I've said is that I am open to working with Congress to figure out, can we get more transparency in terms of how the oversight court works? Can -- do we need a public advocate in there who people have confidence in? Are there additional reforms that can be taken that preserve the core mission of the NSA, which is making sure that we have enough intelligence to protect ourselves from terrorism or weapons of mass destruction or cybersecurity, but do it in a way that Americans know their basic privacies are being protected? I think that could be achieved.
But -- but there's no doubt that, for all the work that's been done to protect the American people's privacy, the capabilities of the NSA are scary to people. And, by the way, these aren't unique to the NSA. I mean, we've got a whole bunch of other countries out there who have these capabilities. One of the challenges that we have is, even as we put in safeguards to make sure that the U.S. government doesn't abuse -- abuse these capabilities, we've also got to make sure that foreign governments aren't hacking into our banks, aren't hacking into our critical infrastructure, are making sure that consumers are protected.
And that means that we're going to be in this cyber world -- and we've got to do it in the right way, we've got to do it in a way that makes sure that people know their own government is looking out for their interests, but we've also got to do it in a way that recognizes that we've got some hostile folks out there that potentially are trying to do us harm.