A feisty President Barack Obama traveled Friday to Liberty for what he called “a little trash talking” — about the Chiefs’ 10-yards-or-less passing game.
Within minutes, though, it was clear he had an additional, more serious target in mind.
To cheering and applause from union autoworkers, the Democrat tore into Congress, demanding it fund the government and raise the debt ceiling without touching his signature accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act.
“We’re not some banana republic,” he told more than 1,000 at the new Ford stamping plant near Claycomo. “This is not a deadbeat nation. We don’t run out on our tab.”
Even as Obama flew to Missouri to make that case, though, the chances of a budget standoff grew. Just a few hours earlier, the Republican House easily passed a measure that would fund the government after Oct. 1 only while prohibiting any spending for Obamacare.
“The American people don’t want the government shut down, and they don’t want Obamacare,” Speaker John Boehner said.
The president said he would not accept the condition.
“They don’t like the Affordable Care Act. They’d rather have people not have health insurance. I’m happy to have that debate with them,” he said. “But you don’t have to threaten to blow the whole thing up just because you don’t get your way.”
Obama’s speech came at the end of a two-hour visit to Missouri, his second trip to the western side of the state this summer.
Before his remarks, he toured the new $260 million stamping plant in Liberty, built — with state tax incentives — to provide parts for the Claycomo assembly plant nearby.
He met with plant workers and Ford CEO Alan Mulally, who demonstrated some of the high-tech metal-fabricating machinery.
The Ford plant is expanding because the demand for its trucks is up. The presidential visit was intended to highlight the rebound in automaking, a rebound helped in large measure by billions of dollars in federal loans awarded to car companies other than Ford.
“Five years ago, plants like this one were closing their doors,” Obama said Friday. “Ford was standing on its own two feet, had made some smart decisions. But Alan will tell you, if GM and Chrysler had gone down, suppliers would go down. ... I refused to let that happen.”
The Claycomo plant suffered a major blow in 2010 when Ford decided to move production of the Ford Escape to Louisville, Ky., without offering specifics about the plant’s future.
But Missouri responded with tax incentives worth up to $150 million over 10 years, convincing Ford to expand. Gov. Jay Nixon, who helped fashion the package, welcomed Obama when he arrived at Kansas City International Airport and was in the audience for the speech.
Sen. Claire McCaskill and U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver traveled on Air Force One with Obama and listened to the speech. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Mark Holland and Kansas City Mayor Sly James were also on hand.
James praised the president’s combative stance with Republicans in Congress.
“It’s a call to arms again for middle class values,” he said. “He’s pumped up. He’s ready to roll.”
Obama’s criticisms of congressional budget decisions appeared more aggressive than other recent speeches. He vowed again not to negotiate over the debt ceiling increase — the federal government is expected to run out of borrowing authority this fall.
“They’re focused on politics,” he said. “They’re focused on trying to mess with me. They’re not focused on you.”
The debt ceiling problem is less immediate than the government funding bill. Without a compromise on a stopgap spending measure, a political standoff would shut down much of the government next month.
Typically, catch-all funding bills advance with bipartisan support. But tea party members, adamantly opposed to spending for health care, pressured GOP leaders to add a provision to cripple the health care law.
“Obamacare is an unmitigated, disastrous train wreck,” Rep. Sam Graves, a Missouri Republican, said in a statement after the House vote Friday. “The House demonstrated leadership in voting to both fund the federal government and remove the country’s largest obstacle to job creation and economic growth.”
The funding measure moves to the Senate. Democrats there are expected to try to remove the Obamacare language and send the bill back to the House.
The White House says Obama will veto the bill if it includes the anti-Obamacare provision.
The speech Friday centered on the budget battles and the health care law, but it had lighter moments as well.
Obama told the crowd he had noticed the Kansas City Chiefs’ 3-0 start.
“When I said I was flying into Kansas City to see an incredible success story in action, I did not think I was going to be talking about the Chiefs,” he said.
“Before you get carried away, I just want to point out that the Bears are 2-0... and we’re actually able to pass more than 10 yards.”
The crowd responded with laughter and a few boos.
“Just,” he said, “a little trash talking.”