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Speaker John Boehner today launched his most blistering attack on President Barack Obama to date, accusing the administration of engaging in “petty politics” and demanding Obama’s campaign reimburse the Treasury for a recent swing through battleground states.
Speaking to reporters, the Ohio Republican repeatedly hammered the administration over this week’s dustup over student loan rates, charging the White House has manufactured a crisis for political purposes.
“The president and his party have a different focus, and it’s about politics, not the American people … the White House it seems is also entirely devoted to this kind of petty politics,” Boehner said, arguing that Obama is “insisting that Congress fix a problem we were already working on.”
“Frankly, I think this is beneath the dignity of the White House … for the president to make a campaign issue about it and then travel to three battleground states” on a trip funded by taxpayers.
While Boehner acknowledged that, “presidents have the ability to use Air Force One and all the tools of the federal government to do official business … this one does not pass the straight-face test. You know it, and I know it. It’s time for the Obama campaign to pony up and reimburse the Treasury.”
Senate Democrats pushed back immediately on Boehner’s remarks, saying that the president’s travels were nothing that presidents haven’t been doing for years. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the same complaints were made about George W. Bush eight years ago but that administrations are careful at following the rules on who pays for what.
“Let’s go to another subject,” he said.
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Democrats’ messaging chief, also defended Obama’s travels to pressure Republicans on student loan interest rates.
“That’s what the Founding Fathers envisioned,” he said.
The Obama campaign dismissed a Republican push for reimbursement as a Republican National Committee “stunt” and said it would be careful to follow all rules on reimbursing the government for travel to political events. The White House has repeatedly contended that official trips to battleground states are a legitimate part of Obama’s job as president, noting that he is pushing for legislation in Congress. It has noted that the president doesn’t stop being president just because a campaign is under way.
More broadly, Boehner attacked Obama on a variety of other issues, ranging from the economy to immigration.
“The president keeps trying to invent these kind of fake fights because he doesn’t have a record,” Boehner said, arguing his policy record amounts to “the emperor wears no clothes.”
Although Boehner has charged for months that Obama is a “campaigner in chief,” today’s attacks are a significant escalation of his rhetoric.
Boehner said today that he had not talked with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney about coordinating their attacks, but during the past several days, the Speaker has quickly emerged as a leading attack dog for the presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s campaign.