WASHINGTON— This week, U.S. President Barack Obama will continue advocating his economic agenda with a speech to workers in Tennessee. The effort comes as battle lines are being drawn in Congress over funding the government and implementing Obama’s signature health care law.
The president has a message for the American people: Even in tough fiscal times, there are things the federal government must do for the common good.
“America has to make the investments necessary to promote long-term growth and shared prosperity: Rebuilding our manufacturing base, educating our workforce. Upgrading our transportation and information networks. That is what we need to be talking about,” he said.
An active government role in the economy, however, is precisely what Republican lawmakers reject. House Speaker John Boehner offers a free market-oriented agenda.
“Simplify our tax code, reduce harmful [government] regulations, and fix a broken government,” said Boehner.
The clash in visions will intensify in the coming months as deadlines loom for authorizing next year’s federal budget and increasing the U.S. government's debt limit. Republicans say budget cuts must accompany any hike of the federal borrowing cap.
“We have spent more than what we have brought in for 55 of the last 60 years. I hope somebody is willing to actually talk about it,” said Boehner.
A similar stand-off two years ago triggered a downgrade of U.S. creditworthiness.
“We have seen a sizeable group of Republican lawmakers suggest they would not vote to pay the bills that Congress rang up - a fiasco that harmed a fragile economic recovery in 2011, and one we cannot afford to repeat,” said Obama.
The looming implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it's commonly known, is further complicating the picture. The program compels Americans to purchase private health insurance, and provides subsidies for those of modest incomes. Some Republicans say they will not vote for any budget that contains funding for Obamacare. Obama will not sign any budget bill that does not.