Obama bus tour to focus on higher ed

The tour on Thursday and Friday of next week will include stops in New York's Buffalo, Syracuse and Binghamton, and a still yet to be determined town in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Although the White House didn’t say so outright, it's presumed that Obama will be speaking at universities in each of the towns.

Earnest said that during the tour, the president would outline “some steps we can take to actually reduce the cost of a college education or at least reduce the rate at which it is rapidly growing.”

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The tour has been billed as a continuation of the economic push that Obama launched last month at Knox College in Illinois, during which he argued his agenda has helped the country battle back from the recession.

But Republicans have criticized the effort, saying the rallies are making it harder to strike a compromise on a fiscal deal and criticizing the president for recycling old policy proposals. On Wednesday, Earnest said the White House was undeterred by those complaints.

“I would assume that Republicans at least in principle would agree with the president that a policy priority of the federal government should be making sure that a college education is both affordable and accessible to middle-class families,” he said.

The events, which come the week after the president returns from an eight-day holiday in Martha's Vineyard, are intended to help frame the upcoming debate over the federal budget and the debt ceiling. The president spoke most recently about housing prices in Phoenix, Ariz.

Congress must approve a government funding measure by Sept. 30 to prevent the first federal shutdown in nearly two decades. Lawmakers must also strike an agreement on raising the debt ceiling. The U.S. is expected to top its borrowing limit sometime in November.