JACKSONVILLE, Florida (CNN) — For the third time in two days, President Obama left Washington on Thursday to deliver the message that it’s time for politicians to refocus on economic policies that help the middle class.
Promising to deliver more speeches throughout the fall on issues like home ownership and education, the president criticized his opponents in congress for trying to defund his domestic priorities.
“The stakes could not be higher,” Obama said. “At a time when we need to make investments to create jobs, and strengthen the middle class, and grow our economy because we’ve got competition coming from all around the world, we’ve got some of the House Republicans who put forward a budget that does just the opposite.”
Proposals to take federal funding away from clean energy projects, student loan programs, research grants and regulations implemented under the Affordable Care Act would be tantamount to “waving the white flag of surrender” in the global competition for jobs, the president said.
Speaking to a crowd at a warehouse at the Jacksonville Port, Obama emphasized the need for increased investment in the nation’s infrastructure.
“We need modern ports so we can move more goods made in America out to the rest of the world,” the president said to applause.
Citing actions his administration took last year to ease permitting for port modifications that would allow new “supertankers” to deliver goods to U.S. ports, Obama said he plans to take additional action without congressional help if it won’t act on his ideas.
“If we’ve got more supertankers coming here, that means more jobs at the terminals,” the president said. “That means more warehouses in the surrounding area. That means more contractors are getting jobs setting up those warehouses. That means they’ve got more money to spend at the restaurant. That means the waitress has more money to spend to buy her iPod. It starts working for everybody.”
Republican leaders mocked Obama for what they described as his repeated efforts to pivot back to job creation.
“His speech turned out to be all sizzle and no steak,” House Speaker John Boehner said at his weekly press conference. “That’s assuming there’s any sizzle left after you’ve reheated this thing so many times. I hope that going forward he’s going to learn from his experience on student loans and other issues where he would focus more on those issues where we can find common ground.”
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor to criticize the president for offering more speeches, but few new ideas.
“The president, himself, said his speech probably won’t change any minds,” McConnell said. “Even the advisers who endlessly hyped this thing more or less conceded there wouldn’t be any there — there. No groundbreaking proposals. No tack to the center. No promise to finally start working collaboratively with Congress. Well, they were right so really you have to ask what was the point?”
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi rejected GOP criticism that the president shouldn’t be making more political speeches and should be more engaged with lawmakers of both parties in Washington.
“This president has been so respectful of the ideas, of the initiatives or the offices that the Republican leadership and the Republican leaders hold,” Pelosi said. “If anything he has taken some criticism from his own party for being overly accommodating with no reward.”