President Obama traveled to the heartland Friday to tout the economy's recovery and slammed Republicans back in Washington for voting to defund Obamacare at the risk of a government shutdown.
"They're focused on trying to mess with me — they're not focused on you,” Obama told a friendly crowd at a Kansas City-area Ford plant.
The speech capped a week of events as Obama sought to pressure Republicans ahead of two crucial fiscal fights. Lawmakers must pass a spending bill by the end of September to avert a shutdown and vote to raise the debt ceiling to avoid a default by mid-October.
Obama’s speech came hours after House Republicans passed a bill that would keep the government funded through mid-December but also strip money for Obamacare, the president's signature legislative achievement.
The measure is dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate and Obama has vowed to veto any spending bill that cuts funding for healthcare reform.
The president also stressed his vow that he would not negotiate with Republicans over the debt limit, proclaiming that if the GOP got their way: ”America becomes a deadbeat.”
GOP leaders want Obama to negotiate further spending cuts and entitlement reforms before they agree to raise the nation’s borrowing limit next month.
By traveling the country and taking his message directly to the public, the president is hoping to portray the Republicans as more interested in derailing his agenda than promoting economic growth and aiding the middle class.
Obama used Speaker John Boehner's own words to warn about the perils of not raising the nation's debt ceiling.
“If we don’t pay our bills, we’ll have an economic tailspin,” Obama said, quoting the GOP leader.
Republicans though are adamant that they will not vote for a clean hike to the debt limit, noting that Obama previously refused to negotiate on the debt ceiling before agreeing to spending reductions he now touts.
Obama said that leaders from both parties have routinely raised the nation's borrowing capacity without making policy demands.
Republicans are quick to point out that when a senator, Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling, something he has said he since regrets.
At the auto plant, the president also trumpeted his administration's bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, telling the Ford workers that had their competitors gone belly up, it would have had a disastrous effect on the entire industry.
Obama joked on his own vehicle upgrade after winning the presidency.
“I may roll in a Cadillac now,” he told the crowd. “But I don't own it, I rent it, just like my house. The lease runs out in 3 1/2 years.”