President Barack Obama blasted Congress on Friday for failing to approve a number of “big-ticket” items, including additional money to help stop the influx of unaccompanied minors on the southern border, before leaving Washington for its annual five-week recess.
“For the most part, the big ticket items, the things that would really make a difference in the lives of middle class families, those things just are not getting done,” Obama told reporters at a news conference at the White House.
Obama praised lawmakers for passing bills to improve the scandal-plagued Veterans Administration and fund transportation projects for a few months before they left town, but criticized them for not approving legislation on student loans, raise the minimum wage and confirm amabassador nominations.
“The American people demand and deserve a strong and focused effort on the part of all of us to keep moving the country forward and to focus on their concerns,” Obama said. “And the fact is, we could be much further along, and we could be doing even better and the economy could be even stronger and more jobs could be created if Congress would do the job that the people sent them here to do....After all that we've had to overcome, our Congress should stop standing in the way of our country's success.”
His message is not a new one.
Obama has spent months traveling the country criticizing a divided Congress -- a Republican-led House and a Democratic-controlled Senate -- for failing to pass his bills, or really any bills.
On the border bill, Obama said lawmakers agree with him that a problem exists, and even on most of the solutions, but that instead of working together House Republicans are trying to pass “the most extreme and unworkable versions of a bill that they already know is going nowhere.”
“They're not even trying to actually solve the problem,” he said. “This is a message bill that they couldn't quite pull off yesterday, so they made it a little more extreme so maybe they can pass it today, just so they can check a box before they're leaving town for a month. And this is on an issue that they all insisted had to be a top priority.”
Obama mocked House Republicans for not even being able to pass their own border bill. “That's not a disagreement between me and the House Republicans,” he said. “That's a disagreement between the House Republicans and the House Republicans.”
About 52,000 minors traveling without their parents have been caught at the border since October, according to the Obama administration. But that number has slowed in recent weeks _ from more than 350 per day in June to about 150 daily the first two weeks of July _ likely due to many factors, from the weather to a media campaign urging parents not to send their children to the U.S.
Obama said he will be forced to act on his own through a series of executive actions -- a move sure to anger House Republicans who have already voted to sue him for acting on his own on changes to the heath care legslation.
“I'm going to have to act alone. because we don't have enough resources.” he said. “We've already been very clear. We've run out of money. And we are going to have to reallocate resources in order to just make sure that some of the basic functions that have to take place down there, whether it's making sure that these children are properly housed or making sure that we've got enough immigration judges to process their cases, that those things get done. We're going to have to reallocate some resources.”