Obama says GOP opposition to debt limit ‘deadbeat’

Casting House Republicans as stubborn deadbeats, President Barack Obama sought Thursday to discredit House Republicans in upcoming fiscal fights by painting them as roadblocks to a thriving middle class.

With Obama and Congress approaching all-too-familiar showdowns over spending levels and the nation’s borrowing limit, Obama used a visit to a port in Florida to argue that the nation’s economic agenda should be immune to the partisan backbiting he faulted Republicans for instigating.

“Shutting down the government just because I’m for keeping it open — that’s not an economic plan,” Obama said, wiping sweat from his face in a muggy warehouse. “Threatening that you won’t pay the bills in this country, when we’ve already racked up those bills, that’s not an economic plan — that’s just being a deadbeat.”

In the last of three stops on a two-day tour to reframe his broad economic vision for the nation, Obama pitched the need for enhanced American infrastructure at this port and others across the country — and for better roads, bridges and power grids. Although he touted his efforts to streamline permitting, the president offered no new proposals for how Americans and their leaders could accelerate a lethargic economic recovery.

Obama warned that if Republicans continue with their “my way or the highway attitude,” dire consequences could await for Americans. He encouraged voters to use next month’s congressional recess to tell Republicans who’ll be in their home districts that gridlock is unacceptable. “It could plunge us back into financial crisis,” the president said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., questioned the point of Obama’s big push in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday. “At some point, campaign season has to end and the working-with-others season has to begin,” McConnell said. “At some point, you have to stop promising an ‘ocean of tomorrows’ and start actually working with the representatives of the people.”

Obama praised Senate Republicans for being willing to compromise on issues like immigration, then drew a distinction with House Republicans, whom he repeatedly accused of bringing the economy to the brink. But Obama, too, at times has taken an uncompromising approach with ultimatums that force his opponents to give in or no deal. He’s refused to consider any budget that includes the across-the-board, automatic spending cuts known as the sequester that went into effect in March.

After a examining the port’s giant cranes used to lift shipping containers onto ships, Obama spoke to a few hundred workers in the sweltering warehouse. He lamented that the U.S. was lagging behind China and Germany on fixing infrastructure and said that’s why he’s working to speed up the federal permitting process.

“The businesses of tomorrow are not going to locate near outdated roads and old ports,” he said. Improvements to the port so more supertankers can come in would mean more workers spending more money at restaurants so that the waitress serving them, for example, can spend more money on an iPod, he said.