Casting an eye toward upcoming fiscal fights, President Barack Obama warned Republicans Friday against trying to defund his signature health care law as he vowed to protect spending on education, scientific research and America's infrastructure.
Taking questions from college students in central New York, Obama decried the Republican approach as "penny-wise and pound-foolish," predicting the U.S. will fall further and further behind other nations in decades to come unless it prioritizes creating opportunities for young people.
"When Congress gets back to Washington, this is going to be a major debate," Obama said during a town hall at Binghamton University.
He said it's the same debate he and lawmakers have been having for two years; the difference now is that the U.S. has made progress in cutting deficits.
"My position is going to be that we can have a budget that is sensible, that doesn't spend on programs that don't work, but does spend wisely on those things that are going to help ordinary people succeed," Obama said.
These and other testy issues will come to a head in the fall, when Congress will face deadlines to increase the federal government's borrowing limit and to continue funding the government.
Obama reserved some of his harshest comments for GOP lawmakers seeking a government shutdown over his health care law, arguing that those lawmakers are not offering an economic plan. More than a third of House Republicans are urging their leader to take such a step this fall.
Instead, those lawmakers should focus on the "pocketbook, bread-and-butter" issues that affect Americans, Obama said, citing college affordability as one such issue.
Despite the deepening crises in Egypt and Syria, all ten of the questions posed to the president focused on domestic issues, mainly education. While the questions were not prescreened, Obama's advisers have aimed this summer to keep the president's public agenda focused on domestic priorities, even as international issues compete for his attention.
Obama's comments came on the second day of a two-day bus tour through to unveil his proposals for lowering the cost of higher education in the U.S.
The president opened his bus tour Thursday in New York with stops in Buffalo and Syracuse, and he stopped Friday morning in Tully. The bus tour wraps up Friday evening in Scranton, Pa., Vice President Joe Biden's hometown. Biden plans to join the president at the event.