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Obama rips Republicans in Minneapolis speech


St. Paul Pioneer Press

MINNEAPOLIS — It was billed as an economic policy address, but President Barack Obama used a friendly venue in Minneapolis on Friday to unload on congressional Republicans, accusing them of doing the bidding of the rich and powerful at the expense of middle-class Americans.

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“Sometimes I’m supposed to be politic about how I say things, but I’m finding lately I just want to say what’s on my mind,” Obama told a ticketed crowd of 3,500 at the Lake Harriet Band Shell.

When he arrived in the Twin Cities on Thursday, the president said he felt “super loose.” He continued to let it all hang out during his final speech to an enthusiastic lakeside audience before flying back to Washington at noon.

“So far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every single idea for strengthening the middle class,” he said.

They have said “no,” he asserted, to raising the minimum wage, guaranteeing equal pay for women and extending unemployment insurance to more than 3 million Americans whose benefits have expired.

“Rather than invest in working families getting ahead, they actually voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans,” he said, accusing them of keeping in place “things (that) help those at the top and don’t help you.”

Republicans hit back, saying Obama’s policies are making it even harder to create jobs.

“Instead of coming to Minnesota to listen and consider a different approach on the struggling economy, it’s clear President Obama’s visit is all about doubling down on his failed partisan agenda and pumping up Democrats ahead of a tough midterm election,” Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short said in a statement. “With recent news that the economy contracted worse than originally thought and America’s middle class is no longer the world’s richest, it’s clear President Obama’s policies still aren’t working and the country needs a new direction.”

With Gov. Mark Dayton and other top Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidates in the audience, the event appeared more political rally than policy forum.

The president repeatedly said during his 30-minute speech that he was fighting for the struggling middle class, the same theme Dayton and other DFL candidates have been sounding all year.

He praised Minnesota for being one of 13 states to increase the minimum wage this year, a move Dayton and DFL lawmakers are touting as a signature accomplishment.

He defended his controversial Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, saying more than 8 million Americans got health insurance through the program, including 180,000 Minnesotans.

“So here in Minnesota, you can now say the women are strong, the men are good-looking, the children are above average, and 95 percent of you are insured,” he joked.

Americans can’t wait for an obstinate Congress to act, he continued. “That’s why I’m moving ahead without them.”

He chided House Republicans for planning to sue him for abusing his executive power. “They’re not doing anything, and then they’re mad at us for doing something,” he said.