US President Barack Obama lampooned Republicans over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill Wednesday, seeking to turn a disaster that has been a political liability for him into a political weapon.

Obama cited a gaffe by a leading Republican lawmaker who said the US government's hardline tactics were a "tragedy" for BP, to lambast the opposition party as the pace heats up ahead of November's mid-term elections.

He said some Republicans opposed raising the legal cap on liabilities BP must pay to clean-up America's worst environmental disaster and a 20 billion dollar BP escrow compensation fund for businesses victimized by it.

"The top Republican on the energy committee even had the nerve to apologize to BP for the fact that we made them set up this fund," Obama said in remarks released by the White House prior to a presidential event in Wisconsin.

"Apologize to BP! He actually called the fund a tragedy. A tragedy? A tragedy is what the people of the Gulf are going through right now.

"That's the tragedy. And our government has a responsibility to hold the corporations accountable that caused it. They want to take us backwards. We want to move forward."

Republican Representative Joe Barton offered Democrats a golden opening last week when he apologized to BP in an opening statement at a hearing over the 20 billion dollar White House "shakedown" of BP.

Barton later retracted the remarks, and his party leaders disassociated themselves from them, but the comments will be used repeatedly in the run-up to November's congressional polls, in which Democrats fear heavy losses.

Obama's switch to full bore politicking mode over the oil spill reflects the way both political parties will try to use the disaster for political advantage. Republicans have accused Obama of being too passive in the crisis.

Also, The Hill reports,

Obama struck out at Boehner (R-Ohio) during a town hall meeting in Racine, Wis. for saying the Wall Street reform bill was akin to using a nuclear weapon to kill an ant.

"That’s right. He compared the financial crisis to an ant," Obama said, according to prepared remarks. "The same financial crisis that led to the loss of nearly eight million jobs. The same crisis that cost people their homes and their lives savings."

While Obama did not mention Boehner by name in excerpts released by the White House, he made it clear who he was talking about by suggesting that "if the Republican leader is that out of touch with the struggles facing the American people, he should come here to Racine and ask people if they think the financial crisis was an ant."

Recent polling give the president poor to moderate ratings on how he has handled the oil spill, though his management of the crisis is much preferred by Americans to the performance over BP during the disaster.

Forty-four percent of those asked in a Gallup poll this month approved of Obama's efforts, while 48 percent disapproved.

BP and other oil firms are currently bound under US law to pay all related clean-up costs from a spill, but the limit on liability for compensation and other claims is set at 75 million dollars.

Democratic leaders in Congress have pledged to expand the liability cap.

(with RAW STORY reporting)