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Obama to warn Republicans on budget tactics

U.S. President Barack Obama wipes his brow while speaking in a hot room about the economy during a trip to the University of Central Missour
U.S. President Barack Obama wipes his brow while speaking in a hot room about the economy during a trip to the University of Central Missour

By Mark Felsenthal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will use the backdrop of a busy commercial port in Florida to warn congressional Republicans on Thursday that using the threat of government shutdown or debt default puts a fragile economic recovery in jeopardy.

In the second of a series of speeches on the economy, Obama is due to accuse Republicans for standing in the way of faster growth with their fiscal proposals, aides said.

During a tour of the port of Jacksonville, Florida, Obama will "discuss specifically how the House Republican budget approach poses a risk to the progress we've made," the White House said.

In Jacksonville, Obama will argue that repairs to the nation's aging roads, bridges and ports are urgently needed, but he is not expected to unveil new policy proposals until later speeches. He is due to talk about manufacturing at a facility of internet retailer Amazon.com Inc in Chattanooga, Tennessee, next week.

Aides say he plans roughly one speech a week for the rest of the summer touching on retirement security, education, and healthcare, among other issues.

Obama has said repeatedly that his primary focus is to restore economic stability to a middle class that is still wobbly after the deep recession of 2007-2009. That aim has been sidetracked since his re-election last November by his efforts to pass gun control and immigration legislation.

It has also been overshadowed by controversies that have kept the administration on the defensive, such as the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service and revelations of widespread surveillance of citizens' phone and internet records by the National Security Agency.

Overshadowing the president's economic agenda is a looming October 1 deadline when Congress must pass spending bills to keep the government running. Not long after, lawmakers must raise the nation's borrowing limit or risk default.

Congressional Republicans, concerned about a large budget deficit and bills to come due in the future as a result of government retirement and health programs, want spending cuts and lower taxes as part of the budget process.

Despite Obama's desire to change topics, his efforts to launch infrastructure repairs are emblematic of his frustrations in getting Congress to agree to his economic agenda.

In March, Obama traveled to another Florida port to plug his plans to launch big public works projects. "Let's get this done," he said, touring an unfinished tunnel project.

The president has said he wants to develop a national infrastructure bank and capitalize it with $10 billion. He would also create "America Fast Forward Bonds" that would help state and local governments attract money for infrastructure projects.

He has proposed adding $4 billion to support two programs that are used to provide grants for infrastructure projects.

But Republicans have been reluctant to support what they consider government stimulus spending after a much criticized $787 billion stimulus plan that Obama managed to push through Congress in 2009.

Florida's Republican governor, Rick Scott, has also said his state has been able to improve the Florida economy without Washington's assistance.

(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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