By Mark Felsenthal
JACKSONVILLE, Fla, July 25 (Reuters) - With a busycommercial port in Florida as his backdrop, President BarackObama warned Republican lawmakers on Thursday that threatening agovernment shutdown or debt default jeopardizes the fragile U.S.economic recovery.
The Democratic president pushed for new spending oninfrastructure and education to create more jobs in the third ofa series of speeches gearing up for the next fiscal fight withRepublicans in the House of Representatives.
"We've got some of the House Republicans who put forward abudget that does just the opposite. They're pushing bills thatwould cut education, cut science, cut research," he said.
Obama toured the port in Jacksonville, Florida, which hasbeen upgraded to handle new supertankers, explaining hisadministration fast-tracked the permit for the project.
But he blamed Republicans for budget cuts that delayed rapidtransit projects in the city.
While Obama said some Republicans in the U.S. Senate arewilling to find common ground on issues, he chided some HouseRepublicans for suggesting they are willing to vote againstlifting the debt ceiling, a vote Congress will face this fall.
"Threatening that you won't pay the bills in this countrywhen you've already racked up those bills - that's not aneconomic plan. That's just being a deadbeat," Obama said.
Obama won a second term last year on a vow to focus onrestoring economic stability to a middle class that is stillwobbly after the deep recession of 2007-2009.
But he has been sidetracked by efforts to pass gun controland immigration legislation. Controversies have kept theadministration on the defensive, such as the targeting ofconservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service andrevelations of widespread surveillance of telephone and Internetrecords by the National Security Agency.
"With an endless distraction of political posturing andphony scandals and lord knows what, Washington keeps taking itseye off the ball," Obama complained in his speech.
By Oct. 1, Congress must pass spending bills to keep thegovernment running. Not long after, lawmakers must raise thenation's borrowing limit or risk default.
Congressional Republicans, concerned about a large budgetdeficit and bills to come due in the future as a result ofgovernment retirement and health programs, want spending cutsand lower taxes as part of the budget process.
Obama has said he wants to develop a national infrastructurebank and capitalize it with $10 billion, and create "AmericaFast Forward Bonds" to help state and local governments attractmoney for infrastructure projects.
He has proposed adding $4 billion to support two programsthat are used to provide grants for infrastructure projects.
But Republicans have been reluctant to support what theyconsider government stimulus spending after a much-criticized$787 billion stimulus plan that Obama managed to push throughCongress in 2009.
"None of it worked. Americans are still asking, 'Where arethe jobs?'" said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House SpeakerJohn Boehner.
NEXT STOP: CHATTANOOGA
Obama's speech echoed many lines from speeches he gave onWednesday in Galesburg, Illinois, and Warrensburg, Missouri.
Aides say he plans roughly one speech a week for the rest ofthe summer touching on retirement security, education, andhealthcare, and would begin unveiling new proposal next week.
On Tuesday, Obama was scheduled to talk about manufacturingat a facility of Internet retailer Amazon.com Inc inChattanooga, Tennessee.
In Jacksonville, he spoke about the surge in U.S. naturalgas and oil production, which he said helped create jobs.
"We've got to tap into this natural gas revolution that'sbringing energy costs down in this country, which meansmanufacturers now want to locate here because they're thinkingthat we've got durable, reliable supplies of energy," he said.
Republicans have excoriated Obama for a prolonged review ofthe Keystone XL pipeline that would deliver oil from Canada andNorth Dakota to Gulf refineries.
They have accused him of blocking the infrastructure projectbecause environmental groups oppose it, even though it wouldcreate thousands of construction jobs.
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