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Obama slams congressional Republicans in economy speech at Lake Harriet

MinnPost photo by Jana Freiband
President Obama at Lake Harriet Friday morning: “Republicans in Congress this year have voted down every single serious idea to strengthen the middle class.”

President Barack Obama railed against Republicans in Congress and credited Democratic policies for helping struggling middle class families in front of more than 3,000 Minnesotans Friday, capping a two-day blitz of events around the Twin Cities ahead of a contentious election this fall.

Obama’s speech at the Lake Harriet Bandshell in Minneapolis echoed themes of economic equality that he discussed Thursday at a private town hall event in Minnehaha Park, but the president used the public event to come down harder on Republicans in Washington, D.C. He ticked off a number of issues that have stalled this year in Congress, including a minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour, a proposal for equal pay for all workers and extending unemployment benefits.

“Republicans in Congress this year have voted down every single serious idea to strengthen the middle class,” he said. “Over and over again they’ve shown that they’ll do anything to keep in place systems that really help folks at the top but don’t help you. They don’t seem to mind.”

Obama won’t face the ballot this fall, but Minnesota’s U.S. House delegation is up, as well as DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. Sen. Al Franken and the DFL-controlled state House. Midterm election years see a considerable drop in Democratic voter turnout, but political operatives hope the president’s visit will help rally the base in a liberal stronghold like Minneapolis. Republicans hoped the opposite, citing his low job-approval ratings this month.

Before arriving at the park, the president visited a workforce development center for young women in North Minneapolis. He was introduced to the crowd by Rebekah Erler, 36, who he joined at Matt’s Bar for a famed “Jucy Lucy” burger on Thursday. Erler, who Republicans have criticized for her former work as Democratic campaign staffer, wrote a letter to the president back in March about her family’s struggles during the economic downturn.

“The letter Rebekah sent stood out,” Obama told the crowd. “It reminded Michelle and I of some of our own experiences. It’s the story of the last five years, the American story.”

He hit on a handful of issues more than others during his two days in Minneapolis, including increasing the federal minimum wage, equal pay for women and workplace flexibility for mothers and families. Mentions of increasing the minimum wage drew loud cheers from the crowd — Minnesota lawmakers passed a more than $3 increase to its wage by 2016 in the Legislature this year.

“We’ve made enormous strides,” he said. “That’s not the end of the story. We have more work to do.”

Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Amy Klobuchar gave the president a brief introduction, while former and current Minneapolis mayors R.T. Rybak and Betsy Hodges and Congressman Keith Ellison looked on.

Obama mostly stuck to his economic message, but he joked with the friendly Democratic crowd too. “I’ve been wanting to visit a place where all the women are strong and all the men are good looking,” he said. “This is clearly an example of what Minnesota produces.”

Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 06/27/2014 - 09:01 pm.

    Are we bored yet?

    Not one smidgeon of a new idea.

    I wonder how much money he raised from the 2% crowd?

  2. Submitted by jason myron on 06/28/2014 - 12:35 am.

    The only thing I’m bored with

    is reading the same tired rants from the tin foil hat brigade. What new ideas have the republicans come up with in the last forty years? Oh yeah…tax cuts, military spending and deregulation. Physician, heal thyself.

  3. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/28/2014 - 08:57 am.

    My only regret

    is that Al Franken had a “previous commitment” and couldn’t be photographed up there with Obama, nodding in agreement to his partisan comments.

    Oh, and republicans didn’t criticize Erler “for her former work as Democratic campaign staffer.” They criticized the democrats and their friends in the press for not being honest with their readers about who she really is until she was exposed and they had to fess up to the charade.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/28/2014 - 09:33 am.

    How is this not funny?

    Republicans spend 7 years doing everything they can to stall Obama’s presidency and make it fail, and then they accuse HIM of being partisan? And despite all that borderline treasonous conduct on behalf of the republicans ( I think deliberately harming the nation for political gain is some kind of treason) Obama still manages to make progress and they try to blame him for the “slow” recovery? How is this not transparently disingenuous?

  5. Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 06/28/2014 - 02:44 pm.

    “systems that really help folks at the top but don’t help you”

    I don’t recall Mr Obama playing the class card before. This rhetoric does not unite the country.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 06/29/2014 - 11:27 am.

      I think it’s quite evident

      that Obama’s detractors have no desire to unite the country. This president reached out from the beginning of his 1st term and was met with the most despicable disrespect from the right that I’ve ever witnessed.

  6. Submitted by Margaret Houlehan on 06/29/2014 - 11:49 am.

    Agree, Paul

    Spot on. Maybe if Congress, led by Boehner, would do its job, Mr. Obama would not have to resort to the pen.

    My only regret is that the President did not realize sooner that you simply cannot negotiate with the Tea Party.

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