Wednesday’s appearance offered Obama a chance to regain the upper political hand that he has lost in recent weeks as gasoline prices rise, employment numbers continue to disappoint and a deficit-reduction deal with the GOP that would raise the country’s debt limit remains elusive.
He accused Republicans — no less than six times — of favoring corporate-jet owners over average folks in the party’s refusal to consider tax increases as part of a deficit deal.
And, showing a combative side that Americans rarely see, he said that Republicans “need to do their job.”
“They’re in one week, they’re out one week,” the president said. “And then they’re saying, ‘Obama has got to step in.’
“You need to be here,” he added sternly. “I’ve been here. I’ve been doing Afghanistan and bin Laden and the Greek crisis. You stay here. Let’s get it done.”
Republicans fired back quickly Wednesday, accusing Obama of shrinking from his responsibilities and trying to pressure them to raise taxes. While the president answered media questions, Senate GOP leaders scheduled a competing news conference to focus attention on their support for amending the Constitution to require a balanced federal budget.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who must satisfy the fervently anti-tax tea party wing of his caucus, said later that Obama’s remarks “ignore legislative and economic reality.”
“Republicans have been leading and offering solutions to put the brakes on this spending binge,” he said. “The president has been AWOL from that debate.”
Recent polls show that any bounce Obama experienced after the May 1 killing of Osama bin Laden and earlier signs of economic recovery has evaporated — and Republicans seeking to challenge the president in next year’s election have taken to calling him a failed leader. A Washington Post-ABC News poll from early June showed that nearly six in 10 Americans disapproved of his handling of the economy.
Recent economic setbacks have put pressure on the president to show that he is as focused on creating jobs as he is on cutting government spending. He has been traveling the country each week — visiting politically important states, including Pennsylvania and Iowa in the past week — to urge job creation and technology investments that could bolster U.S. manufacturing.
In fact, Obama began Wednesday’s news conference by imploring Congress to take new action to stimulate the economy. He called on Congress to extend a payroll tax cut, make loans to build new roads, reform patents and advance trade deals.