By Amie Parnes - 04/30/12 04:10 PM EDT
President Obama on Monday slammed Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerRyan has little margin for error in Speaker vote Top Lobbyists 2016: Hired Guns The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Ohio) and the House Republican leadership for the second time in a week.
Obama’s latest attack on BoehnerJohn BoehnerRyan has little margin for error in Speaker vote Top Lobbyists 2016: Hired Guns The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE is over construction projects, which the president says have been blocked by Republicans who have refused to take up a long-term highway bill approved in a bipartisan vote by the Senate.
"There are bridges between Kentucky and Ohio where some of the key Republican leadership come from, where folks are having to do detours an extra hour and half drive every day on their commute because these bridges don't work," Obama said in a speech to the Building and Construction Trades Department Legislative Conference in Washington. "Time after time, the Republicans have gotten together and they've said no," he said.
While the new Obama rhetoric is about construction, the speech highlights the White House strategy of railing against congressional Republicans to build a case for another four years in the White House for Obama.
Obama increasingly is seeking to portray Boehner, his conference and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney as out of touch with the nation.
On Monday, he also sought to portray Boehner as out of touch with the needs of his own district.
"I went to the Speaker's hometown, stood under a bridge that was crumbling, everybody acknowledges it needs to be rebuilt," Obama said. "Maybe he doesn't drive anymore. Maybe he doesn't notice how messed up it was ... they still said no.”
Republicans argue the attacks by Obama amount to manufactured fights with congressional Republicans.
"He is diminishing the presidency by picking fake fights and going after straw men every day," Boehner said Sunday in a recorded interview on CNN's "State of the Union.”
Boehner and Obama have engaged in a battle on a personal basis for nearly a week.
It began last week, when the president fired at the Speaker over legislation to extend low interest rates on student loans. Obama quoted from a statement given by one of Boehner’s aides to lambaste Republicans for holding up an extension of the low-interest student loans.
Boehner argued that both parties support extending the low-interest rates, and that there was just a disagreement over how to pay for them.
The House voted last week to extend the low interest rate on student loans, but tied the legislation to cuts to a preventative care fund set up by Obama’s healthcare law. The president threatened to veto the legislation over that measure, and it appears unlikely to be taken up by the Democratic-held Senate.
The Senate has approved a two-year highway bill, while the House has approved a temporary funding measure through September that would also force federal approval of the Keystone pipeline project.
Both sides have said they will go to a conference on the measures to try to work out the deal.
Obama wants to portray Romney and Republicans as too conservative for the country, and on Monday he suggested that conservatism is preventing the House from functioning.
He invoked former President Reagan as part of his argument, saying the conservative hero believed "that rebuilding our infrastructure is common sense" and questioning whether Reagan could win a GOP primary in today's political climate.
Obama said Republicans on Capitol Hill "have exactly the opposite view" as the former president.
"It's not like only Democrats are allowed to use these things," he said. "Everybody's permitted. Everybody needs them.
"So this makes no sense," he added. "Congress needs to do the right thing. It shouldn't be hard. Not everything should be subject to thinking about the next election instead of thinking about the next generation. Not everything should be subject to thinking about politics."