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Obama chides G.O.P. for blocking economic measures

Chip Somodevilla / Staff | Getty Images News

President Obama rebuked congressional Republicans on Friday for opposing his economic initiatives, saying they should be held accountable for not doing enough for the middle class.

Mr. Obama also criticized Republicans for considering legal action over his use of executive orders, arguing that they were allowing a politically motivated vendetta to block actions that could help working people, like raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment insurance.

''We can't afford to wait for Congress right now, and that's why I'm going ahead and moving ahead without them wherever I can,'' Mr. Obama told about 3,500 people who gathered on the shores of Lake Harriet in Minneapolis to hear him speak. ''Now Republicans are mad at me for taking these actions. They're not doing anything, and then they're mad that I'm doing something.''

The president, looking ahead to the midterm congressional elections this fall in which his party is fighting to keep control of the Senate, is seeking to insulate Democrats from the anti-Washington sentiment that polls show is increasingly potent among voters. The mood threatens to harm incumbents and dampen turnout.

''The basic attitude is, 'Everybody is just crazy up there.' '' Mr. Obama said. ''But if you actually read the fine print, it turns out that the things you care about right now, Democrats are promoting -- and we're just not getting enough help.''

Mr. Obama is trying to help Democratic candidates distance themselves from him, since polls show that the public holds a dim view of the president's handling of the economy. Republicans, he said, ''don't do anything except block me and call me names.''

Republicans want to bind Democrats ever more tightly to Mr. Obama, and to cast the blame on them for the slow pace of job growth.

The Republican-controlled House ''has passed jobs bill after jobs bill, only to see them blocked by the president and other Washington Democrats,'' said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner. He said the president's attempts to belittle the threat of a Republican lawsuit only added to widespread frustration with his use of executive power.

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''The American people, their elected representatives and the Supreme Court have all expressed serious concerns about the president's failure to follow the Constitution,'' Mr. Steel said. On Thursday, the court issued a ruling saying the president had overreached in issuing recess appointments during brief breaks in the Senate's work.

The president portrayed Republicans as cowed by activists who refuse any bipartisan compromise. He said some Republicans have told him privately that they would like to work with him, ''but they can't be too friendly toward me because they'd be run out of town by the Tea Party.''

''Sometimes I get a sense they just don't know what most folks are going through,'' Mr. Obama said of Republicans.

His visit to Minnesota -- the first in a series of ''Day in the Life'' trips that Mr. Obama plans this summer to dramatize what is at stake if his economic agenda continues to be thwarted -- was tailored to leave the impression that the president understands the plight of families still struggling amid the recovery.

He was introduced Friday by Rebekah Erler, the working mother from Minneapolis whose letter to him about her financial struggles inspired the trip.

''I walked away knowing that I was truly heard,'' Ms. Erler, 36, said of a lunch she shared with Mr. Obama on Thursday.

The president, who has been searching for ways to shake up his tightly controlled routine and mix with ordinary people, sought to identify with the public's frustration about government inaction on economic issues.

''I know it drives you nuts,'' Mr. Obama said, ''and it drives me nuts.''

''I'm supposed to be politic about how I say things, but I'm finding lately that I just want to say what's on my mind,'' the president said to cheers from the audience.

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