President Obama blasted House Republicans Friday for ignoring the middle class in the budget stalemate, saying conservative lawmakers "are holding the whole country hostage" by trying to defund his new national health care law.
"They're not focused on you," Mr. Obama told auto workers at a Ford assembly plant in Liberty, Mo. "They're focused on politics. They're focused on trying to mess with me."
Even though polls show a majority of Americans don't approve of the new health care law, Mr. Obama said his reelection last year over Republican Mitt Romney had settled the question over its future.
"The guy who was running against me said he was going to repeal it. We won," the president said. "The voters were pretty clear on this."
His speech in Missouri came just hours after the House approved a stopgap funding bill to keep government open while blocking all funding for Obamacare. Their action sets up a final showdown next week with Senate Democrats and the administration over a possible government shutdown on Sept. 30.
"They want to threaten default just to make sure that tens of millions of Americans continue not to have health care," Mr. Obama said. "That's the strategy they're pursuing. They've gone beyond just holding Congress hostage. They're holding the whole country hostage. I'm not going to allow them to inflict economic pain on millions of our own people just so they can make an ideological point."
Mr. Obama said Congress must meet two urgent deadlines — to pass a budget by Sept. 30, and to increase the nation's borrowing limit soon after that.
"If they don't pass a budget by Sept. 30 — what's the date today? The 20th?" Mr. Obama said. "If Congress doesn't pass a budget in 10 days, a week from Monday, the government will shut down. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will not be allowed to go to work. Our men and women in uniform, even those deployed overseas, won't get their paychecks on time."
He said the vote to approve an increase in the federal borrowing limit is "just a routine thing you you've got to do so that Treasury can pay the bills."
Failure to raise the borrowing limit would cause the U.S. to default on its obligations, something that's never happened, Mr. Obama said.
"Basically America becomes a deadbeat," he said.
In the campaign-style event, Mr. Obama revived themes from his reelection, saying the economic recovery isn't yet providing enough benefits to the middle class.
"Right now even though businesses are creating jobs, the top 1 percent took home 20 percent of the nation's income last year," the president said. "The average worker barely saw a raise."
Someone in the audience called out, "That's not fair."
The president replied, "It ain't fair. It ain't right."
Mr. Obama said the health care law, for which open enrollment in new state-based insurance "exchanges" begins Oct. 1, "has nothing to do with the budget." And he asked the public to pressure lawmakers to vote for "common-sense" solutions.
"You should expect some compassion," Mr. Obama told the factory workers. "You should expect some compromise. You should expect the conviction of leaders who wake up and go to work every day not to tear something down, but to build something better."
Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, criticized the president's latest "pivot" back to the economy.
"Our country needs more than campaign-style speeches and 'pivots' from the president if we're going to jump-start private sector job creation," Mr. Blunt said. "Five years in office, and four years after the recession ended, most American families and businesses are still struggling thanks to this administration's failed economic policies. We need to work together to pass common-sense solutions that encourage job growth — starting with the permanent delay of ObamaCare and more American energy."
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