In the Kansas City area Friday, President Barack Obama took on the nation's economy and Republicans as the U.S. House voted to gut the funding for his signature healthcare law.
During a speech in Liberty, he lauded the law's existing benefits and the ones that will take effect Oct. 1. He said conservative Republicans are willing to put the country in default in their zeal to annihilate the Affordable Care Act, which is commonly called Obamacare.
"Defunding (the act) would rob 25 million Americans of the chance to get healthcare coverage. It would cut basic healthcare services for tens of millions of seniors on Medicare already," he said. "That's what House Republicans are fighting for. And now they've gone beyond just holding Congress hostage. They're holding the whole country hostage. One Republican senator called shutting down the government over the Affordable Care Act, 'The dumbest idea I've ever heard.' I agree with him."
The president said refusing to raise the debt ceiling is like buying a pickup truck and then refusing to make the payments. He said when individuals don't pay their bills, collectors start calling and "your credit goes south."
Obama says the same thing happens when a country doesn't pay its bills - interest rates will rise, and Ford will have fewer buyers for its vehicles.
"So raising the debt ceiling, it doesn't cost you a dime," he said. "It does not add a penny to our deficits. All is says is you've got to pay for what Congress already said we're spending money on. If you don't do it, we could have another financial crisis."
He also said Congress must pass a budget because a government shutdown would hurt millions.
"Hundreds of thousands of Americans will not be allowed to go to work," he said. "Our men and women in uniform, even those deployed overseas, won't get their paychecks on time. Small businesses, they won't get their loans processed."
He said he won't negotiate on raising the debt ceiling or the healthcare law.
"This is the United States of America. We're not some banana republic. This is not a deadbeat nation. We don't run out on our tab. We're the world's bedrock investment. The entire world looks to us to make sure the world economy is stable. We can't just not pay our bills. And even threatening something like that is the height of irresponsibility."
Obama directly took on Friday's U.S. House vote about the healthcare law.
Conservative Republicans led a successful to gut funding for Obamacare. This was part of a budget vote to keep the government funded. The Senate is expected to reject the measure, which could lead to a government shutdown.
"Unfortunately, there is a faction on the far right of the Republican Party right now. It's not everybody, but it's a pretty big faction who convinced their leadership to threaten a government shutdown and potentially threaten to not raise the debt ceiling if they can't shut off the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare," the president said.
He said the healthcare law has nothing to do with spending cuts or entitlement reform.
"They're actually willing to plunge America into default if we can't defund the Affordable Care Act," he said.
He noted that it passed both the House and Senate. It was upheld by a closely divided Supreme Court. He said he was re-elected last year after his opponent said he would repeal it if won.
Air Force One touched down at 11:12 a.m. Friday at Kansas City International Airport. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, and U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat from Kansas City, joined Obama for the trip from Washington.
Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, and his wife, Georganne, greeted the president along with Kansas City Mayor Sly James. Obama then headed to the throng crowded along a metal barrier where he focused on children waiting to see him.
Obama discussed the auto industry's recovery at the Ford stamping plant in Liberty. This comes amid looming budget battles with Congress.
Some of his biggest applause and boos came when he discussed the NFL.
"When I said I was coming flying into Kansas City to see an incredible success story in action I did not think I was going to be talking about the Chiefs," the president said, noting that his Chicago Bears are 2-0.
He added to boos, "And we're able to pass more than 10 yards."
He also talked about driving a Ford Escape that was built at the Claycomo plant before he became president. He said he got Secret Service protection a month later so the SUV only has 2,000 miles on it.
"It's in mint condition," he said. "I want to say thank you for building my car."
The stamping plant recently expanded as part of growth at Ford's Claycomo facility.
There's even less certainty about how Obama and Congress will resolve a feud over raising the nation's borrowing limit to head off a first-ever default on the nation's debt.
The nearly 1,000 jobs that Ford Motor Co. has added there to build the popular F-150 pickup truck underpins his case that with the government's help, the economy is bouncing back in American locales far removed from the political congestion in Washington. Ford made a $1.1 billion investment at the Claycomo plant.
Ironically, Ford is the only major U.S. automaker that didn't partake in the 2009 bailout that Obama says saved the industry and buoyed the economy. He referenced the GM and Chrysler bailouts.
"We bet on the American worker, we bet on you, and today that bet has paid off because the American auto industry has come roaring back," he said.
Obama spent about 20 minutes touring the plant. He chewed gun during the tour of the plant, which was partially in operation. He visited with several line workers during the tour.
Six years and six months ago, President George W. Bush also escaped to this Ford plant, regrouping amid a storm over the firing of U.S. prosecutors and brinkmanship with Congress over whether troops should stay in Iraq. Walking the noisy assembly lines and chatting up workers, Bush touted gas-electric hybrid vehicles the plant was churning out as he plugged an energy plan that remained controversial in Congress.
"The American people expect us to work together. See, that's what they want," Bush said, urging Democrats and Republicans to cooperate.
Obama, whose administration on Friday was also unveiling tough new pollution limits on power plants, didn't see those hybrids on the assembly line. These days, production of that line of SUVs has been moved to Kentucky.
Dan Jowiski, the plant's manager, said there were once 4,500 workers building autos at the site, but that figure dropped off by nearly two-thirds during the auto industry crisis at the end of the last decade. The plant expects to return to that figure by the start of 2014, when it adds 1,000 workers to the payroll to build the new Ford Transit line of vans.
Republicans issued statements ahead of Obama's visit attacking the president.
"The president is attempting to pivot the discussion away from his blunders in foreign policy to try and refocus on domestic issues," said Missouri Republican Party Chairman Ed Martin.
He said the economic initiatives helping Missouri were championed by Republican legislators.
Nixon also played a vital role in getting an economic development bill passed that kept the Ford assembly plant in Claycomo open.
"The president is very good at making speeches and pointing fingers at everyone but himself," Martin said. "The fact is speeches don't create jobs. Unfortunately that all we ever get from the president."
National Republicans ripped the president for not working to find commonsense solutions to the nation's debt crisis and other economic-related issues.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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