June 30th, 2010
12:09 PM ET
4 years ago

Obama weighs in on Boehner and Barton controversies

President Obama is in Wisconsin on Wednesday touting his economic plan.
President Obama is in Wisconsin on Wednesday touting his economic plan.

Racine, Wisconsin (CNN) – President Barack Obama takes his economic message on the road Wednesday, traveling to Wisconsin to hold a town hall on the economy. But he also plans to use the forum to take aim at some recent controversial comments by two top Republicans.

"We already tried the other side's ideas. We already know where their theories led us. 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," the president is expected to tell an estimated audience of 1,300 in Racine, Wisconsin, according to excerpts of Obama's speech released by the White House.

Listen: CNN's John Lisk and Paul Steinhauser discuss Obama's trip.


The president's event comes one day after the stock markets on Wall Street tumbled, following a report showing a slump in consumer confidence and signs of a bigger slowdown in the global economy.

And the town hall comes two days before the Labor Department releases the June jobs report, which could bring more bad economic news. Economists are predicting the economy lost 100,000 jobs in June. The unemployment rate, which now stands at 9.7 percent, is expected to rise a tenth of a percentage point.

The president is also expected to praise financial reform legislation, which is close to final passage by Congress.

"We're on the verge of passing the most comprehensive financial reform since the Great Depression – reform that will prevent a crisis like this from happening again. It's reform that will protect our economy from the recklessness and irresponsibility of a few. Reform that will protect consumers against the unfair practices of credit card companies and mortgage lenders. Reform that ensures taxpayers are never again on the hook for Wall Street's mistakes," says Obama according to excerpts.

And the president is expected to criticize the top House Republican, who blasted the Obama-backed financial reform bill, saying if the measure "This is killing an ant with a nuclear weapon."

The comments by Rep. John Boehner, the House minority leader, came in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review which was published Tuesday.

"I was stunned to hear the leader of the Republicans in the House say that financial reform was like using a nuclear weapon to target an ant. That's right. He compared the financial crisis to an ant. The same financial crisis that led to the loss of nearly eight million jobs. The same crisis that cost people their homes and their lives savings," Obama is expected to tell the audience.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel says the Ohio Republican was merely criticizing the Democrat's financial reform measure, not minimizing the economic crisis.

Obama is also expected to address recent controversial comments by Rep. Joe Barton, the senior Republican on the House Energy Committee.

Earlier this month Texas GOP lawmaker described BP's agreement to establish a $20 billion fund for oil spill victims "a shakedown" by the Obama administration and apologized to the oil giant. Barton later retracted his comments after being shelled by criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.

"The top Republican on the energy committee even had the nerve to apologize to BP for the fact that we made them set up this fund. Apologize to BP! He actually called the fund "a tragedy." A tragedy? A tragedy is what the people of the Gulf are going through right now. That's the tragedy. And our government has a responsibility to hold the corporations accountable that caused it," says Obama according to excerpts.

The president's visit to Wisconsin comes a week and a half after he traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to mark the groundbreaking of what the administration touted as the 10,000th road project to be funded by the politically controversial $862 billion economic stimulus plan.

That trip was part of the launch of the White House's "Recovery Summer," a six-week push to highlight what the administration says will be a summer and fall of job creation fueled by a new surge in federal stimulus spending.

The stimulus, which is formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, was designed to boost the country's economy by increasing federal government spending and cutting taxes. Critics have repeatedly characterized the plan as a budget-busting boondoggle that failed to sufficiently reduce unemployment.

No Republicans in the House and only three in the Senate voted for the bill, when it was passed by Congress early last year.

This is the president's first trip to Wisconsin since last November, when he traveled to the state to discuss education. The most recent non-partisan public poll in Wisconsin, conducted in March, indicated that half the voters in the state disapproved of how Obama was handling his duties as president, with 44 percent saying they approved of his job in the White House.

Sen. Russ Feingold, who is up for re-election this year, will not attend the Wednesday event. The three-term Democrat, as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is attending the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

Update 12:45 p.m.: "Wisconsin is famous for our hospitality, but it's not too often you get a guest with as much baggage as President Obama is bringing. Hopefully we'll get some straight talk today, because we've sure got a lot of questions that need answering. Of course, Obama might just be in town to clean up after Joe Biden's mess last week. After saying there's no way to recover 8 million jobs and calling a Kopp's employee a 'smartass' for talking about taxes, Obama can't do much worse," Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman Reince Priebus told CNN, in a statement.

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn


Filed under: Joe Barton • John Boehner • Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (156 Responses)
  1. Vigla

    I'm tired of conservaties complaining about debt. When we didn't have problems with debt in the late 90's and had a surplus, what did Republicans and conservatives do? CUT TAXES instead of paying down the debt. Now that we HAVE TO deal with the economic crisis we are in, we can't spend anything because we're in debt.

    This is the mantra of the conservative. Make government not work and go bankrupt, so that when people who care about government take over, they can complain about the mess government is in. What a canard. Until conservatives show that they even care about government they do not deserve to run anything.

    June 30, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    "I don't think that there is a single honest, working American who wouldn't want to go back to the way things were before the Democrats took control of congress in 2007."

    Of course...the time before the bursting of the falsely inflated bubble created by inappropriate tax cuts and deficit spending is freekin lovely. If only we could find a way to make permanent all that fairy tale bubble inflation the GOP always engages in so the next POTUS/Congress has to clean up the mess while they claim "look at how great things were when we were in charge"...oh wait...that's not possible because reality doesn't agree with conservative ideology. Keep screaming and selling it tho...maybe reality will come around to your way of thinking.

    June 30, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  3. Shirley in California

    This is the way I see it. Right now Americans are afraid of two things:

    Obama – where he is going; and
    Bush – where he went.

    In November people will have to chose between yesterday (Bush) and tomorrow (Obama) and I am willing to guarantee they will vote for tomorrow with the democrats and stay away from yesterday with the republicans.

    Go Mr. President!

    June 30, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  4. Dano

    Maybe the health care reform bill wasn't perfect and maybe the finance reform bill isn't perfect, but I don't think there are many folks in the country that think we can just contunue on with business as usual as the GOP seems to want. If these new laws don't improve things as intended or worsen them, then Americans can fire the current guys and bring in new ones, but until we see the results I'm willing to give them the benefit of a doubt. One thing that's perfectly clear is the current system is tipped too much in favor of corporations and the wealthy and something must be done. Trickle down economics have been tried and not enough trickles down to the middle & lower classes. Deregulation has been tried and it's now clear that businesses cannot be trusted to police themselves – Greed is just too strong a temptation for Wall Street to resist. So why not give this President (and the Dems who were out of power 12 years before winning back the House in 2006) a chance to prove themselves?

    June 30, 2010 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  5. Obozo's Recod Deficit + Higher Taxes

    BOZO is dope.

    We don't care what he thinks.

    Boenher war right to call you out for being a dope.

    AND I love these DUMocRAT comments whining about Republicans. Yes there are some dopey Republican politicians, but I vote republican to be anti-democrat.

    I want less GOVT, not more
    Less TAXES, NOT more
    Less SPENDING, not MORE
    Less DEFICIT, not more

    Those reasons alone make Republicans superior to DUMocRATS

    June 30, 2010 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  6. AnettaP21

    What is sane and rational about spending our way into oblivion? What is sane and rational about a national debt that now exceeds 10% of our GDP and as every economists has warned, is unsustainable? What is sane and rational about spending trillions on "stimulus" to create jobs and then find out 8 million jobs "won't come back? or the largest number of jobs has been created in government? (which is already overpaid.) What is sane and rational about a policy that steers responsibility to government and giving everyone a free ride (which we all know isn't free.) What is sane and rational when 47million Americans don't pay any taxes whatsoever and illegals enjoy the fruits of our labors? What is sane and rational about a government that fails to uphold its' Constitutional Duties? What is sane and rational about our leaders who spend more time talking than acting to clean up the Gulf Oil Spill or their photo-ops showing "how much they care and feel our pain?" Apparently, your definition of "sane and rational" is different than most people grounded in reality.

    June 30, 2010 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  7. Jeff from Va

    Sure, go ahead and blame it on the "Other Side", the only answer I want is where are the jobs that this administration has promised!!!!!

    June 30, 2010 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  8. Tom from Canonsburg

    Get ready for the standard GOP analysis that occurs everytime the DEMs do something good for the people. When the economy got better under Clinton, they said that the changes responsible came from under Reagan. Their analysis stated that economics changes took eight (8) years to actually take effect. Using that GOP standard the problems with the economy & inflation during the Carter years actually came from changes under Nixon. Then the bad economy that has occured during this last year minus 8 years equals Bush.

    June 30, 2010 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  9. felicia

    I stand with my President and have the faith that he has the people best interest

    June 30, 2010 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  10. Rush Limbaugh marries ambulance chaser,and were still laughing

    Great job Mr.President,call that little weasel, beadyeyed Barton out.He knows hes safe in his hillybilly texas district,that is owned by ExxonMobil and the war machine.

    June 30, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    Article about unemployment caused by deregulated financial industry meltdown that leads to a recession = GOPers screaming about what a huge deal the recession is, Obama being a failure and not doing enough yadda yadda yadda

    Article about regulatory reform of financial industry that caused recession = GOPers claiming its all overkill, that more regulation is "big government" and "socialism" and a take over of the financial industry blah blah blah

    SAY ANYTHING, right GOPers?

    June 30, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  12. shawn

    I'd like to thank Republicans for reminding Americans why we hate them. What a bunch of deranged, morally confused nutballs!

    June 30, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "I want less GOVT, not more
    Less TAXES, NOT more
    Less SPENDING, not MORE
    Less DEFICIT, not more

    Those reasons alone make Republicans superior to DUMocRATS"
    -

    Have you checked a history book lately? GOPers say those things when Dems are in control. They SAY them. They don't DO them when the GOP is in control.

    June 30, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  14. thor

    Obama has been in office nearly a year and half and while he not responsible for all our economic woes he was elected to solve the problems.I have seen nothing to indicate this man has any ideas to pull us out this funk we're in.And he has the gall to try to lecture other countries at the recent summit as to how to get their financial houses in order.They were laughing at him behind closed doors because they realize how out of touch he is with the real world.

    June 30, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  15. Dano

    @doug

    You either have amnesia or are just plain ignorant. The probelms the economy is experiencing now are not the result of the Dems winning a majority in the HOUSE in 2006. The GOP still controlled the Senate and the Executive branch so not one thing the Dems attempted was enacted during that time. Even if they were, it takes several years for any new law to produce results, either good or bad, so blaming the bad times we"re living through now on the Dems alone is ludicrous. Could it be that waging 2 wars while cutting taxes (mostly on the wealthy) could be a cause? Could overturning decades-old regulations of Wall Street and Big Oil companies be a cause? Do you EVER think before you spew your nonsensical opinions???

    June 30, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  16. PalmReader

    I am no longer surprised by what the GOPers say anymore. Boehner is just one of many who have mocked those suffering the most from the recession. Having created the foundation of less regulatory control which led to the 2007 recession, the GOP have sat back and refused to admit they and their policies created this mess. Unfortunately, in their calculated dismissal of all that is democratic, GOPers have also contributed to the slow economic growth we as a nation now face. Taking down a president does have it's consequences, GOPers. Especially in a recession.

    Boehner wants to increase Social Security to age 70. Hard to argue that keeping our elderly on the pay-roll is going to increase job growth. Many of our seniors have already lost much of their retirement benefits due to the Wall Street collapse. Millions have been forced to take early retirement, thereby - again - losing a significant amount of their retirement benefits. How these misplaced and unemployed seniors are supposed to find jobs to support themselves to age 70 is not being discussed. WalMart, perhaps? I seriously doubt the GOPers care, one way or another. We are the ants, Boehner . . . NOT Wall Street.

    Astonishing as it is, should the GOP regain the House, Boehner would become our next Speaker of the House.

    To make matters worse, many of the Tea Party candidates are licking their chops to get their chance to not only dismantle the Dept. of Education and the Dept. of Energy, but Social Security and Medicare as well. Great job growth that.

    With Boehner in charge, this is a very real possibility. Too real.

    June 30, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  17. Chessnutz of Liverpool NY

    Please, please when will the name calling and the finger pointing stop and these two failed political parties think about the American people first again?
    There are two very large organizations that are destroying America and they are the Democrats and the Republicans.
    I'm one voter who is not going to vote for a party ever again, I will vote for independent moderate candidates who will look for solutions to these hard situations.
    Time to stop campaigning and to start working on saving our country!

    June 30, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  18. seebofubar

    Obama, you are a lying idiot! The failed policies were Democrat policies. The problem with GW is that he didn't put up enough resistance. You have had the reigns of the economy for 17 months. The only thing that you have done is to damage it beyond anyones imagination. It's typical for someone who has no clue how to solve a problem to just throw blame. You are an inexperienced nimrod and you know it!

    June 30, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  19. MAhole

    "We already tried the other side's ideas. We already know where their theories led us. 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,"
    ________________________________

    Well, I guess that says it all..........
    It's been 18 months of NO from the GOBP...........
    Along with the assinine comments from Barton and Bone-head.
    Wake up America – and vote in NOvember – against the party of NO!

    June 30, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  20. Tina, NC

    The minority leader for the GOP also said that he would raise the retirement age of Social Security to 70 and that people making a "substantial" amount from other retirement shouldn't even get Social Security. Where were the people who always claim Obama is a socialist when Boehner made that comment? If that isn't spreading the wealth around I don't know what is.

    June 30, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  21. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert, but...

    Jeff from Va June 30th, 2010 12:46 pm ET
    "Sure, go ahead and blame it on the "Other Side", the only answer I want is where are the jobs that this administration has promised!!!!!"

    They're hidden in the same place as all of the jobs that were to be created by 30 years of deregulatory trickledown nonsense. Have a nice day!

    June 30, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  22. Sue

    Too bad the rest of the world does not agree with our president about spending his way out of this mess....his solution is spend spend spend.....their solution is cut cut cut.

    Never spent my way out of debt.

    June 30, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  23. GL

    The Republicans just gave President Obama his MO JO BACK. Republicans onces again have OVER PLAYED THEIR HANDS!

    June 30, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  24. Sue

    You can criticize Mr. Bohner all you want......

    PolitiFact | Yes, Rep. John Boehner has never asked for earmarks

    June 30, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  25. Mike D

    If the dems economic recovery plan running for the past two years is working why are 100,000 more jobs being lost? Why is the unemployment rate going from 9.7% to 9.8%? Smoke and mirrors folks and the "new plan" will force more tax payers out of employment. You can only go on blind faith for so long......probably 'til November.

    June 30, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
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