President Barack Obama Fires Back at Critics of Economic Stimulus Plan

Obama was critical of opponents who want to slash spending from his plan.

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By Michael Mcauliff
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF

WASHINGTON - President Obama is trying to hit the re-set button on his push to pass an economic recovery plan - reminding people that he won at the polls last November.

A day after smacking down bailed-out CEO's, Obama stopped by the Department of Energy this afternoon to chide Congress for "bickering' over pork and tax cuts - and to point out that America liked the vision he pushed on the campaign trail.

He was particularly blunt in ripping opponents who want to slash the hundreds of billions in spending from his scheme to focus on cutting taxes – a pet project for ex-President George W. Bush.

"Those ideas have been tested and they have failed,' Obama said. "They've taken us from surpluses to an annual deficit of over a trillion dollars. They've brought our economy to a halt."

"And that's precisely what the election we just had was all about,' Obama said.

"The American people have rendered their judgment, and now is the time to move forward, not back,' he said, carefully wording a point that brought grief to Bush, who said after his victory in 2004 that he had political capital and was going to spend it.

The comment seemed aimed at lawmakers who have been emboldened recently by criticism of pork projects and spending that does not appear to be an immediate "stimulus' in the $900 billion recovery legislation.

"It's a broken process, and the president, as far as I'm concerned has been AWOL in providing leadership,' Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Fox News.

But Obama insisted that some of the things he's heard criticized – such as replacing the entire federal fleet of vehicles with fuel-efficient models – really do fit in an economic renovation plan.

"This is what they called pork,' Obama said with a touch of contempt. "You know the truth. It will not only save the government significant money over time; it will not only create manufacturing jobs for folks who are making these cars, it will set a standard for private industry to match.

"So when you hear these attacks deriding something of such obvious importance as this, you have to ask yourself, Are these folks serious?' Obama said. "Is it any wonder we haven't had a real energy policy in this country?'

Using the power of the President's office, Obama took his own step to improve energy efficiency, signing an executive order directing the Energy Department to come up with a new set of standards for consumer products that he said could save two-years of coal-fired power over the next 30.

But his primary focus was on pushing Congress, with the Senate wrangling over various provisions in its version of the economic rescue plan. Senators anticipate a vote Friday.

"We need to move forward today,' Obama said. "We can't keep having the same old arguments over and over again that lead us to the exact same spot, where we are wasting precious energy, we're not creating jobs, we're failing to compete in the global economy, and we end up bickering at a time when the economy urgently needs action.'