WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Saturday chided the two top Republicans in Congress, challenging his rivals to make a fresh start and build a bipartisan effort to boost growth after next week’s election.
Speaking three days before a midterm congressional election in which his Democrats are expected to suffer heavy losses, Obama said lawmakers had a “duty” to seek common ground.
“That’s why I found the recent comments by the top two Republicans in Congress so troubling,” Obama said in his weekly radio address, in which he urged Democrats and Republicans to work together on issues like extending middle-class tax cuts.
“The Republican leader of the House actually said that ‘this is not the time for compromise.’ And the Republican leader of the Senate said his main goal after this election is simply to win the next one,” Obama said, referring to Representative John Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell.
Republicans are expected to win control of the House and may take back the Senate in the November 2 midterm congressional ballot, as voters punish Obama’s party over an uncertain economic outlook and an unemployment rate stuck near 10 percent.
“Ending the Obama administration’s liberal agenda as soon as possible is Sen. McConnell’s top political priority,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said. “For two years the president and the majority in Congress have veered off to the far left and pursued their own liberal wish-list agenda.”
Republicans have marshaled public anger over federal bailouts of car companies and Wall Street banks into a potent attack on Obama, although some of the most despised measures were drafted under his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.
Dramatic steps were taken to confront the most severe U.S. recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, including an $814 billion emergency stimulus package signed by Obama that critics blame for contributing to a record U.S. budget deficit.
Opposition in Congress to any more government spending measures has thwarted White House efforts which it says would help lift U.S. hiring and the economy.
This has not stopped Obama from talking about steps he would take if he had congressional backing.
Repeating a call for bipartisan support on tax relief for businesses, as well as other measures aimed at spurring the economy that he has previously discussed, Obama appealed for a fresh start after the election.
“I know that we’re in the final days of a campaign. So it’s not surprising that we’re seeing this heated rhetoric. That’s politics,” the president said. “When the ballots are cast and the voting is done, we need to put this kind of partisanship aside -- win, lose, or draw.”
Reporting by Alister Bull; editing by Jim Marshall