By Jordan Fabian - 03/18/15 04:33 PM EDT
CLEVELAND — President Obama on Wednesday slammed House Republicans for offering a budget that is “a path to prosperity for those who have already prospered.”
One day after House Republicans offered a budget plan that would slash $5.5 trillion in spending over the next 10 years while cutting healthcare and domestic programs, the president traveled to Cleveland, a manufacturing stronghold located in an important battleground state.
“I’m going to take a little credit,” Obama said during a speech to the City Club of Cleveland.
The president noted “there was a lot of resistance and obstruction” from Republicans to his administration’s policies, “but we decided to continue to advance.”
The president's Cleveland trip is part of a broader push by the White House to seek the upper hand in the budget debate against Republicans, who took control of both chambers of Congress in January.
Cleveland will play host in July 2016 to the Republican National Convention, where the GOP will choose a nominee to try to replace Obama. And Ohio is the home state of Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerConservative allies on opposite sides in GOP primary fight Clinton maps out first 100 days The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE, who has served as Obama’s chief political adversary.
Obama noted that there have been more than 60 straight months of private-sector job growth with over 12 million jobs created, and that unemployment has fallen to 5.5 percent.
Meanwhile, the president said the House GOP’s budget “doubled down on trickle down" by proposing tax breaks for the wealthy, partially privatizing Medicare and eliminating the Affordable Care Act.
“Reality has rendered its judgment,” he added. “Trickle-down economics doesn’t work. Middle-class economics does.”
He also defended trade deals his administration is negotiating with Asian nations, which have angered fellow Democrats and labor unions who argue the deals could lead to the elimination of U.S. jobs.
Obama said the deals would include strong labor and environmental language and would give the U.S. a leg up on China in establishing trade guidelines.
A trio of Ohio lawmakers who are critical of Obama's trade policies, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) and Reps. Marcia Fudge and Marcy Kaptur (D), accompanied the president in Cleveland.
Before his speech, Obama toured the Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network (MAGNET), a Cleveland-based nonprofit group that advises manufacturers. He said the GOP budget proposal would slash funding for the programs that funds MAGNET.
The plan contains $1.1 trillion in cuts to non-mandatory programs, and Democrats say that could decimate social programs such as food stamps and Pell grants.
The White House announced Wednesday a new $320 million competition for nonprofit groups in 12 states to provide technological consulting to small manufacturers, similar to MAGNET’s mission. The funding would be spread over five years, and half would come from private sources. Another $120 million is up for grabs for manufacturers, universities and nonprofits to create a manufacturing innovation hub focused on advanced textiles for the military.
The president’s $4 trillion budget plan includes a $350 million request to launch seven new manufacturing institutes next year, which would boost innovation and job training. That would add to nine manufacturing hubs already funded through this year, and the White House has called for full funding to create 45 institutes around the country.
Republicans defended their budget proposal as a vehicle for getting deficits and debt under control while accelerating job growth.
“Sadly this is just the latest example of President Obama putting campaign-style events and partisan politics above governing,” Boehner spokesman Cory Fritz said in a statement. “And it’s all a ruse designed to distract from the president’s own problems.”
Obama’s budget plan, released in February, boosts spending on items like infrastructure, education and transportation, but would add $6 trillion in deficits over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Republicans have criticized the president for not working toward a balanced budget.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last month called Obama’s plan a “another top-down, backward-looking document that caters to powerful political bosses on the left and never balances — ever.”
“Imagine if he was going there to push FOR his trade agenda, or any of the other items on his agenda that are being slowed by Democrats,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said in a statement on Wednesday. “Imagine what could get done. You have to wonder when he is going to get off the campaign trail and start trying to get things done?”