President Obama cranked up his criticism of Republicans in the days leading up to the start of his second term, going so far as to suggest the rival party has "suspicions" about feeding poor children and ensuring seniors' access to health care.
The comments came during the president's final news conference of his first term Monday. While claiming he's fairly "friendly" and open to talks with Republicans, he leveled some unusually tough accusations at the GOP -- effectively impugning their motives for deficit reduction.
The president claimed that what's "motivating and propelling" House Republicans may be "more than simply deficit reduction."
"They have a particular vision about what government should and should not do," Obama said. "So they are suspicious about government's commitments, for example, to make sure that seniors have decent health care as they get older. They have suspicions about Social Security. They have suspicions about whether government should make sure that kids in poverty are getting enough to eat, or whether we should be spending money on medical research."
Conservatives did not take kindly to the president's allegations.
"Wasn't Barack Obama supposed to put an end to partisan bickering and finger pointing?" tweeted House Republican Leader Eric Cantor spokesman Doug Heye.
The president, in his remarks, was apparently referring to Republicans' push to cut Medicare spending as well as food stamps.
But on the former, Republicans say they're trying to reform the program in order to stabilize and save it -- while addressing a major driver of the U.S. deficit. On the latter, Republicans note that the food stamp program's rolls have swelled to 47 million in recent years -- and have pushed to tighten qualification requirements.
Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, on Fox News, said Obama's suggestion that Republicans want to starve children is "essentially a libel."
Obama made the comments after being asked about threats by some Republicans to allow a government shutdown if the two sides cannot come to a budget agreement later this year. Obama has also warned Republicans not to threaten default by holding back an increase in the debt ceiling if they don't get the spending cuts they want.