President Obama on Thursday hammered congressional Republicans for refusing to increase the nation’s borrowing capacity unless the White House agrees to spending cuts, using another economic speech outside Washington to accuse his GOP foes of getting in the way of job growth.
“Threatening that you won’t pay the bills in this country — when we’ve already racked up those bills — that’s not an economic plan,” Obama said at the Jacksonville Port Authority in Florida. “That’s just being a deadbeat.”
Obama traveled to Jacksonville to press for more infrastructure spending. But the more glaring message behind the presidential trip was the not-so-subtle warning he gave to House Republicans right before their August recess and with bruising budget battles expected in the fall.
Obama was almost daring Republicans to work with him on issues in which the divide between the two parties remains vast.
“I think there are a number of Republicans out there who mean well, although they’re not as willing to say so because they might get in trouble,” Obama quipped. “Over the last six months, the gridlock has gotten worse.”
The president’s remarks largely mirrored those he gave in Illinois and Missouri Wednesday, kick starting a series of policy speeches he will deliver over the next few weeks in an attempt to change the narrative in Washington.
The White House is looking to lessen the focus on mounting questions about Obamacare, the Internal Revenue Service targeting conservatives and elusive National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, among other topics, that have started to hurt Obama in a series of recent public polls.
Obama again dismissed those controversies on Thursday as “phony scandals.”
The president was eager to showcase successful examples of when he sidestepped Congress, as he tries to paint the Republican-controlled House as a dysfunctional group of obstructionists. He chose to speak in Jacksonville because the administration expedited two projects at the port there that were previously in limbo because of backlogged permits.
“Where I can act on my own, I’m gonna act on my own,” Obama said, previewing other battles with lawmakers. “I won’t wait for Congress.”
In his State of the Union address this year, Obama called for $50 billion in stimulus funding for decaying roads and bridges, transit systems and airports — a request that was dismissed by the GOP as a flawed, big-government solution to economic turmoil.
Supporters say Obama’s infrastructure proposals would create thousands of jobs. But critics point to the president’s $800 billion stimulus package, which included $48 billion in funding for transportation projects, as proof that a similar investment would produce limited results.