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Senate GOP to Obama: 'It's the Economy, Stupid!'

Senate Republicans are collectively turning a sharp eye, not just on President Obama's budget, but on what they see is a lack of focus on the real problem facing the country: the nation's economic crisis. 

Republicans began their coordinated criticism on the budget last week, but on Thursday they stepped up their attack with one theme: the president is spreading himself too thinly on popular initiatives, while Americans suffer under the burden of a collapsing economy.

One by one, senior Republicans took to the Senate floor to urge Obama to subordinate all other programs and to talk directly to Americans about how he intends to solve the nation's fiscal ailments, particularly the credit crisis.

"Americans want reforms in education, health care, energy, and other areas, but they want the administration to fix the economy first. That's the first priority," said GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. 

"And at this point we seem to be getting proposals on everything but the financial crisis. And that's what is crippling our economy," McConnell scolded.

"The American people are looking for presidential leadership," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., also a member of leadership, adding, "My respectful suggestion to our impressive new president...in Eisenhower fashion, say 'I will fix the banks, and I will get credit flowing again."

Referencing President Dwight Eisenhower's famous "I shall go to Korea" speech, Alexander strongly urged the current president "to do one thing until the job is honorably done...No more summits. No more trips in other directions. Focus attention on the problem."

The White House shrugged off the critics.

"If you look at what the president's operating theory has been in dealing with Congress, it is soliciting their ideas and we'd be anxious to see an alternative from those that find criticism with what the president proposed," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday.

"What the president believes is important in what he proposed was addressing many of the problems that for so long had not been addressed," Gibbs added.

But Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., criticized the administration's "ad hoc approach" to the crisis, with a withering attack.

"We have to focus on urgent priorities and I hope it doesn't take 2 million more workers to face a layoff before the administration is serious about the crisis," he said.

"Yesterday the president said we need some adult supervision in Washington. I couldn't agree more," he continued. "We definitely need some adult supervision of the Treasury Department when it comes to addressing our credit crisis, someone willing to make tough choices; not just slapping new names on old programs and throwing billions of taxpayer dollars into failed institutions in the hopes that Americans see it as 'change' they have been promised."

Sen John Ensign, R-Nev., another member of leadership, made an unusual reference to the former Clinton administration's legendary campaign slogan.

"We should be focusing...like a laser beam on the economy. Bill Clinton, back in 1992, when he was running for office, you know, their campaign coined the phrase, 'It's the economy, stupid,'" he said. "Well, that was when we were in a very minor recession. Today we are in a severe recession, with no end in sight."