WASHINGTON -- Striking a partisan tone, President Obama said Wednesday he is working to rebuild the economy without much help from Republicans, saying they have mostly "sat on the sidelines and shouted from the bleachers."
The White House released excerpts of Obama's speech while he was en route to a speech at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University. In his remarks, the president aggressively sought to cast Republicans as a party that fought him on tax cuts for small businesses, tax credits for college tuition, new spending on clean energy and more.
The timing comes as Obama, juggling the oil-spill disaster in the Gulf and mounting foreign crises, tried to assure the country that he is also working on the people's chief concern -- the economy. The president's political speech also underscores the importance of the upcoming midterm elections, in which the outcome of House and Senate races could shape Obama's ability to enact his agenda for the rest of his term.
"We already know where their ideas led us," Obama said of Republicans. "And now we have a choice as a nation. We can return to the failed economic policies of the past, or we can keep building a stronger future."
Obama also said it is time to roll back "billions of dollars in tax breaks" frgy and health care; and reductions in federal spending to bring down budget deficits.
In some areas, the president can claim victory. His administration's $862 billion stimulus plan included significant investments in education and incentives for growth in renewable energy industries. The $1 trillion health care bill he signed into law in March was the largest overhaul of the U.S. health care system in decades.
But not every goal has been met. A sweeping overhaul of Wall Street regulations is still tied up in Congress, with lawmakers hoping to deliver final legislation to the president by July 4.
And the national debt has ticked up to $13 trillion on Obama's watch. The president contends the recession made it necessary to add to the debt in the short term. He's appointed a bipartisan commission to make recommendations to Congress on ways the government can balance the budget by 2015.
The April unemployment report showed that 15.3 million people remain out of work, and economists say it will take at least five years to regain the nearly 8 million jobs wiped out during the recession. The nation's unemployment rate is expected to hover near 10 percent through the end of year.
Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, who lost his re-election bid last month when he fell to Rep. Joe Sestak in the Senate primary, was traveling with Obama to the event. Sestak is not expected to attend. Obama's administration disclosed last week that it had tried indirectly to nudge Sestak out of the race against Specter by tapping former President Bill Clinton to offer him an unpaid position in the administration. Sestak rejected the idea last year.