President Obama pressed for new infrastructure improvements to the nation's ports and roads during a visit to Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday, accusing congressional Republicans of holding up projects that are "a key ingredient to a thriving economy."
It was Obama's third economic speech in just over 24 hours, part of a blitz intended to refocus attention back on economic matters. The president and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx toured the site before the president's remarks, visiting a container terminal that the administration expedited.
The president made sure to note that his administration "acted without Congress" to hurry permitting at the site and repeatedly hit Republicans for opposing his infrastructure proposals.
"Making sure we have world-class infrastructure shouldn’t be a partisan issue. That’s an American issue," Obama said.
He also slammed congressional Republicans for pursuing a budget that was a "bad bargain" for the middle class. "Not paying the bills this country has, even after we racked them up — that's not an economic plan, that's just being a deadbeat," Obama said of Republican threats to not raise the debt ceiling limit.
Obama has sought to frame upcoming battles over the debt limit and the federal budget in his speeches, arguing that Democratic budget proposals better serve the middle class. He also again accused Republicans of prioritizing recent controversies over the nation's interests.
"With an endless distraction of political posturing and phony scandals and lord knows what, Washington keeps taking its eye off the ball," Obama said.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday, "House Republicans are working to pass legislation that would dangerously undermine the kind of investments that stand to benefit middle-class families."
Obama said the need to invest in the economy was especially apparent in port cities like Jacksonville, which would need to rapidly respond to changing transportation technologies. Noting that new supertankers, which can hold 3 times the cargo of ordinary ships, would soon be streaming through the Panama Canal, the president urged improvements to allow the U.S. to remain competitive.
"We want those supertankers coming here, to Jacksonville. If we've got more supertankers coming here, that means more jobs at the terminals. That means more warehouses in the surrounding areas," Obama said.
A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that while Republicans agreed with the need to improve the nation's infrastructure, the president had delayed or canceled job-creating projects like the Keystone XL pipeline.
"Before the president asks taxpayers to pick up the tab for another round of ‘stimulus’ spending, he might consider getting out of the way of the private-sector infrastructure projects he continues to block," Brendan Buck said.
The White House has said that the president will continue his economic push through the summer. Wednesday night, press secretary Jay Carney said Obama would visit an Amazon.com fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tenn., later this month.
"In Chattanooga, the president will continue to talk about the progress we've made together, the challenges that remain and the path forward," Carney said.