WASHINGTON (AP) — Drawing renewed attention to the economy, President Barack Obama will return this week to an Illinois college where he once spelled out a vision for an expanded and strengthened middle class as a freshman U.S. senator, long before the Great Recession would test his presidency.
The address Wednesday at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., will be the first in a new series of economic speeches that White House aides say Obama intends to deliver over the next several weeks ahead of key budget deadlines in the fall. A new fiscal year begins in October, and the government will soon hit its borrowing limit.
The speech comes just a week before Congress is scheduled to leave for its monthlong August recess and is designed to build public pressure on lawmakers in hopes of averting the showdowns over taxes and spending that have characterized past budget debates.
In his economic pitch, Obama will talk about efforts to expand manufacturing, sign up the uninsured for health care coverage, revitalize the housing industry and broaden educational opportunities for preschoolers and college students. He will also promote the economic benefits of an immigration overhaul.
The White House is promoting the speech as part of an arc of economic messages from the president that began at Knox College in 2005, when Obama was in his first year in the Senate. Since then, Obama has sought to raise the profile of his economic agenda with periodic speeches, including one at Georgetown University in Washington in 2009 and one in Osawatomie, Kan., in 2011. The White House posted a video highlighting Obama's previous economic addresses.
The president will also speak Wednesday at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Mo.
Obama's focus on the economy comes as he has experienced a degree of success with the Senate, which passed an overhaul of immigration laws and unclogged a Republican blockade against several presidential nominations. It also reflects a belief at the White House that the administration has been able to manage a series of confrontations with Congress over the Internal Revenue Service, phone surveillance of Americans and the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
"The president thinks Washington has largely taken its eye off the ball on the most important issue facing the country," Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said Sunday evening in a message sent to the White House's public email list. "Instead of talking about how to help the middle class, too many in Congress are trying to score political points, refight old battles and trump up phony scandals."
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