Debates over the deficit, the Affordable Care Act, and Washington scandals are a distraction from economic recovery, President Obama said Wednesday.

In the first of a series of speeches meant to refocus attention on his plans to repair the economy, Obama accused the GOP of avoiding the topic.

"If you ask some of these Republicans about their economic agenda, or how they’d strengthen the middle class, they’ll shift the topic to 'out-of-control' government spending -- despite the fact that we have cut the deficit by nearly half as a share of the economy since I took office," Obama said from Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. "Or they’ll talk about government assistance for the poor, despite the fact that they've already cut early education for vulnerable kids and insurance for people who've lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Or they’ll bring up Obamacare, despite the fact that our businesses have created nearly twice as many jobs in this recovery as they had at the same point in the last recovery, when there was no Obamacare."

A fresh showdown over the debt ceiling is looming this fall. Some Republican senators are also hoping to block any government funding resolution that funds the health-care legislation.

The president lamented that Congress overall is not, in his view, prioritizing the important issues.

"With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball," he said. "And I am here to say this needs to stop."

At the same time, Obama pledged to "work with Republicans as well as Democrats wherever I can," saying that "there are members of both parties who understand what’s at stake, and I will welcome ideas from anyone, from across the political spectrum."

Speaking before Obama's speech from the House floor, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the remarks "a hollow shell ... an Easter Egg with no candy in it." He called on Obama to delay the implementation of Obamacare and agree to Republican demands for spending cuts in exchange for a debt ceiling increase.

Read the whole speech here.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.