YEADON, Pennsylvania — US President Barack Obama Tuesday used "huggable" young children as a backdrop for his latest bid to make Republicans pay a price for blocking his economic and education reforms.

Obama traveled to Pennsylvania, a state which he must win if he is to win reelection next year, to tout his job creation plans and to unveil a new effort to improve early childhood education.

The president met children and teachers in a Head Start program, which offers education, health and nutrition to children from low income families and prepares them for kindergarten in the state school system.

Obama argued that early education for America's kids was vital as the United States competes with China, South Korea and European nations which he said were "serious about education."

He complained that Republicans in the House of Representatives earlier this year voted for a budget that would have reduced funding for Head Start and had blocked aspects of his jobs bill designed to keep teachers in work.

So, saying he was bypassing a constructive Congress, Obama said that he would introduce a new rule that would require low performing Head Start programs to meet new standards to get continued federal aid.

"After trying for months to work with Congress on education, we've decided to take matters into our own hands," Obama said. "Can't wait for Congress any longer."

The president, however, argued that Congress, which has so far failed to pass any pieces of his $447 billion jobs bill designed to cut 9.0 percent unemployment and revive the economy, still needed to act.

Before his speech, he toured a classroom filled with colorful signs and drawings and filled with children aged three to five years. One child wore a shiny red T-shirt, bearing the slogan "Black President" bearing a picture of Obama.

"I had the chance to visit one of the classrooms here, and I have to say, it got me a little choked up," Obama said.

"(The children) are just so huggable at this age," and in an apparent reference to his daughters Malia and Sasha said, "Now they are still huggable, but they are 5'9" and five feet."