President Barack Obama used his bully pulpit Wednesday to blast Republicans for standing in the way of economic progress.
The harsh criticism provoked equally strong words from Obama’s GOP critics on Capitol Hill, who said the president was blaming their opposition to his policies for his own lack of success.
The rhetorical war came as both parties prepared for Friday’s release of national unemployment numbers, which are expected to show the economy created more than 500,000 jobs in May, many of them temporary government positions with the Census.
The White House and congressional Democrats hope the figures bolster their arguments ahead of the midterm elections that the economy is emerging from recession with the help of Democratic economic policies. Republicans are expected to highlight the nation’s high unemployment rate under Obama, which has jumped since he took office.
Obama offered his criticism of the lack of GOP cooperation he’s seen in office in a major speech on the economy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
The president said Republicans have been out to oppose him since before he took office, and singled out conservative Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-S.C.) prediction that if the GOP could derail Obama's healthcare agenda, it would be the president's “Waterloo.”
“Before I was even inaugurated, the congressional leaders of the other party got together and made a calculation that if I failed, they win,” Obama said.
He said Republicans had decided to oppose his stimulus bill, expected to be a key point of contention in the fall elections, before he arrived for a meeting at the Capitol early last year on the legislation.
Democrats argue the growing economy was helped by last year’s stimulus package, which cost $862 billion, according to the latest Congressional Budget Office estimate. Republicans argue the stimulus added to the budget while creating few jobs.
Obama, striking a campaign note in June, said the country would be worse off with Republicans in charge of the economy.
“As November approaches, leaders in the other party will campaign furiously on the same economic argument they’ve been making for decades,” he said. “Fortunately, we don’t have to look back too many years to see how it turns out. For much of the last ten years, we tried it their way.”
Obama said the GOP gave the country tax cuts for millionaires and gutted regulations. He said Republicans put industry insiders in charge of industry oversight, and shortchanged investments in clean energy and education.
“And despite all their current moralizing about the need to curb spending, this is the same crowd who took the record $237 billion surplus that President Clinton left them and turned it into a record $1.3 trillion deficit,” Obama said.
House GOP Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Stopping the next insurrection Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE (Ohio) said Obama was “diminishing” the U.S. presidency with his partisan rhetoric.
The dust-up between the White House and Capitol Hill Republicans has become a familiar refrain.
Obama says he has traveled to Capitol Hill in search of bipartisanship only to be hit with barbs from Republicans. Only three Republicans voted for the stimulus, and none voted for the final healthcare bill.
Republicans, for their part, have seen the president come to them promising bipartisanship, only to turn around and hit them with harsh criticism.
Obama engaged in a “testy” back-and-forth at a Senate Republican lunch last week, and then flew to California to attend fundraisers where he blasted Republicans' criticisms of him.
“It’s clear from his harsh partisan rhetoric today that President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaJudge denies Trump spokesman's effort to force Jan. 6 committee to return financial records Gina McCarthy: Why I'm more optimistic than ever on tackling the climate crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks MORE has run out of excuses for his broken promises on the economy,” Boehner said Wednesday. “It’s time for the president to step up, exhibit real leadership, and call on congressional Democrats to offer a budget that reins in out-of-control spending to help create jobs and get our economy moving again.”
The Carnegie Mellon speech also served as a progress report following a major address on the economy by the present at Georgetown University in April 2009.
While the economy has grown since Obama gave that address, a GOP aide noted that the unemployment rate was 8.5 percent when the president spoke at Georgetown, and that “14 months and hundreds of billions of stimulus spending later” the rate stands at 9.9 percent ahead of Friday's report.