MINNEAPOLIS U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday blasted House Republicans who have threatened to sue him for issuing executive orders to implement policies that would have a hard time passing in the Republican-controlled chamber of Congress.
"They don't do anything except block me and call me names," Obama said in an economic speech that concluded a two-day visit to Minnesota.
Obama reacted to a threat on Thursday from House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, who said he was considering a lawsuit charging the president with overstepping his constitutional boundaries by taking a series of executive actions and other steps.
Obama is campaigning hard for Democratic congressional candidates this year, as Republicans have a chance to grab control of the Senate and add to their majority in the House. Such an outcome would doom the president's chances of getting major legislation approved, such as an immigration overhaul.
This year, Obama has used executive actions on issues such as energy and education to get around Republican opposition. His administration has also proposed regulations to limit power plant carbon emissions and is considering ways to ease the immigration crunch.
"So we take these actions, and now Republicans are mad at me for taking these actions. They’re not doing anything and then they’re mad at me for doing something. I’m not sure which of the things I’ve done they find most offensive, but they’ve decided they're going to sue me for doing my job," Obama said in his speech at picturesque Lake Harriet.
Obama's actions have generated an uproar among Republicans, with Boehner alleging the president has abused his executive authority by implementing policies without congressional approval.
Boehner's spokesman, Michael Steel, rejected the president's criticism, saying: "The American people, their elected representatives, and the Supreme Court have all expressed serious concerns about the president’s failure to follow the Constitution."
Obama's comments were notable in that he used an official speech, instead of a Democratic fund-raising event, to launch a partisan attack. His strategy to help Democrats win in November is to portray Republicans as out of touch with everyday Americans and more concerned about helping rich people.
Obama has been trying to break out of the usual White House routine and show voters he understands their concerns. While in Minneapolis, he met with two people who wrote to him and ate a hamburger with a young woman struggling to pay her bills.
Obama likes to joke that he is like a bear breaking out of his cage. On Friday, he said Republican inaction "drives you nuts ... and it drives me nuts."
"Sometimes I’m supposed to be, you know, politic about how I say things, but I’m finding lately that I just want to say what’s on my mind," he said.
Other presidents have actively invoked executive actions. During his first four years in office, Obama signed 147 such orders. In comparison, George W. Bush signed 173, Bill Clinton enacted 200 and Ronald Reagan ordered 213 in their first terms.
(Writing by Steve Holland Additional reporting by Annika McGinnis and Susan Heavey; Editing by Paul Simao and Dave Gregorio)