Obama: 'Our focus cannot drift' from jobs, economy

By Nedra Pickler

Associated Press

Published: Friday, May 17 2013 9:06 p.m. MDT

Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland's only Republican congressman, criticized Obama's trip as a photo opportunity and said the president should have stayed in Washington to work on economic problems. Harris said Obama has been dragging his feet on developing the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from western Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast and create jobs. The administration has not yet taken a position on the project, which is opposed by environmentalists but supported by the president of Ellicott Dredges, Peter Bowe, in testimony before Congress Thursday.

"That would boost jobs at Ellicott Dredges, but other than that, it's just going to be another photo op on a campaign-style tour when the president should be in Washington tending to the nation's business and to address the huge scandals that are popping up on a daily basis in Washington," Harris said in a conference call with other Maryland Republicans.

At the plant, Obama touted another effort to create jobs faster. He signed a memorandum Friday directing federal agencies to update infrastructure permit processes, aiming to cut their timelines in half. The White House said it's an important step in the president's goal of creating jobs by making urgent repairs to roads, bridges and railways.

The White House cited as an example the recently approved replacement of the aging Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson River in the suburbs just north of New York City, which saved two to three years on the timeline.

Associated Press writer Brian Witte contributed to this report.

Follow Nedra Pickler on Twitter: https://twitter.com/nedrapickler

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