President Barack Obama used a campaign-style speech in the American heartland Friday to blast his Republican opponents as feckless obstructionists in Congress, saying Washington’s current gridlock “drives me nuts.”
Republicans have become so obsessed with blocking the Democratic president’s every move that he has been forced to use his executive authority to advance priorities like pay fairness, Obama said, dismissing as a stunt a threatened Republican lawsuit against him.
The White House and Republican congressional leaders, notably House Speaker John Boehner, have sparred repeatedly over Obama’s use of executive orders, with Boehner warning this week that Americans “didn’t elect a monarch or king.”
The top Republican in Congress announced Wednesday he would file a lawsuit against Obama because “the president has not faithfully executed the laws” of the nation.
An unapologetic Obama ridiculed the approach, calling it a “stunt” in an interview with ABC News.
Later, he told some 3,500 supporters in Minneapolis that in 2014, congressional Republicans “have blocked or voted down every single serious idea to strengthen the middle class.”
He proceeded to rattle off a list of Democratic initiatives that have stalled in Congress, including raising the minimum wage, fair pay proposals and extending unemployment insurance.
“I know it drives you nuts that Washington isn’t doing it, and it drives me nuts,” he told the crowd.
“The reason it’s not getting done is, today, even basic common sense ideas can’t get through this Congress.”
Obama’s Democrats control the Senate, while Boehner’s Republicans run the House. With partisan bickering now the rule rather than the exception in Washington, gridlock has prevailed.
“And so we can’t afford to wait for Congress right now. That’s why I’m going ahead and moving ahead without them wherever I can,” Obama said, noting how he took executive action to raise federal contractor pay to a minimum of $10.10 per hour.
Obama feigned surprise at Boehner’s threat.
“I might have said, in the heat of the moment during one of these debates, ‘I want to raise the minimum wage, so sue me when I do,’” a grinning Obama said. “I didn’t think they were going to take it literally.”
Republicans complain that the Senate refuses to take up House-passed legislation that would create jobs and improve the economy.
Democrats counter that Republicans are doing everything in their power to sink the Obama presidency.
With Washington’s cynicism piled high, Obama said he came to Minneapolis to escape the “tone deaf” capital and engage with everyday American workers who struggle to make ends meet for their families.
With his approval numbers dipping into the low 40s, and public frustration over a series of foreign policy crises from Iraq to Syria to Afghanistan, Obama turned his full attention to domestic trends, offering a reassuring pat on the back for Americans and assuring them he was listening to their concerns.
“I’m listening,” Obama said in a speech that would not have been out of place in his 2012 re-election campaign.
“You’re the reason I ran for president. Your stories are the stories I’ve lived.”
On Thursday at Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis, he slid into a booth for lunch with Rebekah Erler, a wife and mother of two toddlers who recently wrote him a letter describing her family’s challenges.
The event was billed as part of the president’s effort to spend “a day in the life” of an ordinary American.
Boehner’s office said dismissing the lawsuit as a stunt only reinforces the frustration of Americans who feel Obama has overstepped his authority — from the implementation of the controversial health care law to rules curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
“The American people, their elected representatives, and the Supreme Court have all expressed serious concerns about the president’s failure to follow the Constitution,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.