Obama says GOP opposition to raising gov't borrowing cap without cuts 'deadbeat'

By Josh Lederman

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, July 25 2013 3:17 p.m. MDT

President Barack Obama speaks at the Jacksonville Port in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday, July 25, 2013. A day after he kicked off the tour in Illinois and Missouri, Obama was traveling Thursday to a seaport in Jacksonville, Fla., to yet again deride the wide gulf between his vision for a new American prosperity driven by a burgeoning middle class and the intense gridlock snarling up Congress.

Susan Walsh, Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Casting House Republicans as stubborn deadbeats, President Barack Obama sought Thursday to discredit House Republicans in upcoming fiscal fights by painting them as roadblocks to a thriving middle class.

With Obama and Congress approaching all-too-familiar showdowns over spending levels and the nation's borrowing limit, Obama used a visit to a seaside port in Florida to argue that the nation's economic agenda should be immune to the partisan backbiting he faulted Republicans for instigating.

"Shutting down the government just because I'm for keeping it open — that's not an economic plan," Obama said, wiping sweat from his face in a muggy port warehouse. "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 — that's just being a deadbeat."

In the last of three stops on a two-day tour to reframe his broad economic vision for the nation, Obama pitched the need for enhanced American infrastructure at this port and others across the country — and for better roads, bridges and power grids. But while he touted his efforts to streamline permitting, the president offered no new proposals for how Americans and their leaders could accelerate a lethargic economic recovery.

Obama warned that if Republicans continue with their "my way or the highway attitude," dire consequences could await for Americans. He encouraged voters to use next month's congressional recess to tell Republicans who'll be in their home districts that gridlock is unacceptable. "It could plunge us back into financial crisis," the president said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., questioned the point of Obama's big push in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday. "At some point, campaign season has to end and the working-with-others season has to begin," McConnell said. "At some point, you have to stop promising an 'ocean of tomorrows' and start actually working with the representatives of the people."

Obama praised Senate Republicans for being willing to compromise on issues like immigration, then drew a distinction with House Republicans, whom he repeatedly accused of bringing the economy to the brink. But Obama, too, at times has taken an uncompromising approach with ultimatums that force his opponents to give in or no deal. He's refused to consider any budget that includes the across-the-board, automatic spending cuts known as the sequester that went into effect in March.

The 2011 battle between Obama and House Republicans over raising the government's borrowing limit brought the nation close to default and resulted in a hard-fought budget deal. Obama says he won't be bullied on the debt ceiling again, but many in Washington believe the need to increase the borrowing cap later this year will prompt some kind of budget bargain.

A new poll by the Pew Research Center shows that pessimism about the economy remains widespread. The poll conducted last week found that 82 percent of Americans think the economy is in fair or poor condition and 67 percent are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. today. Forty-four percent think it will be a long time before the nation's economy recovers, while only 28 percent say it's currently recovering. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Even among Democrats, just 38 percent think the economy is recovering. But there are signs of slow improvement: The housing market is recovering, the stock market is booming, and unemployment is falling despite remaining uncomfortably high at 7.6 percent.

After a examining the port's giant cranes used to lift shipping containers onto ships, Obama spoke to a few hundred workers in the sweltering warehouse. He lamented that the U.S. was lagging behind China and Germany on fixing infrastructure and said that's why he's working to speed up the federal permitting process.

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