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Obama calls for infrastructure investment as economic tour continues

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- President Barack Obama used the Port of Jacksonville as a backdrop for his latest economic policy speech, using an infrastructure project there to illustrate his call for greater investment in similar projects.

In his third economy-driven speech in two days, Obama mixed policy initiatives with barbs leveled at Republicans in Congress, whom he blamed for slowing infrastructure investments.

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"We know strong infrastructure is a key ingredient to a thriving economy," Obama said, citing the need, for instance, to prepare ports like Jacksonville's for oncoming "supertanker" shipments. "Unfortunately, over the past few years, too many folks have been cutting these investments in Washington."

The president's speech was otherwise a litany of initiatives familiar to any listener of his speeches on Wednesday during stops in Illinois and Missouri. Obama continued to push his message of middle-class growth through more government investment in infrastructure. But his criticism of congressional Republicans took on a somewhat sharper tone as he accused them of worsening gridlock in the nation's capital.

“Right now we've seen a group of Republicans in the House in particular who suggest they wouldn't vote to pay the very bills that Congress has already racked up that harmed our recovery back in 2011. It would severely harm it again; it could plunge us back in the financial crisis,” the president said.

Specifically, the president railed on the House Republicans' comments about government spending and the implementation of his signature health care reform law.

President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks about the economy, Thursday, July 25, 2013, at the Jacksonville Port Authority in Jacksonville, Fla. John Raoux / AP

“If you asked some of these same folks about how they'd strengthen the middle class, they'll tell you, well, out-of-control government spending's the problem -- despite the fact that as a share of the economy, we have cut the deficit by nearly half since I took office. Or they'll say 'Obamacare' is the problem. The problem is that we're trying to give health insurance to millions of Americans who don't have it."

Obama took it a step further, responding to a threat from some Republicans in Congress to vote against funding the government in September if that funding includes money for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

“Shutting down the government just because I’m for keeping it open is not an economic plan,” Obama said incredulously.

Obama was referencing a letter being circulated by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and being promoted by conservative groups, that would essentially look to transform the debt ceiling fight into another standoff over Obamacare.