With Washington facing a potential government shutdown, President Obama traveled to the heartland Friday and delivered a combative rebuke of congressional Republicans for “trying to mess with me” instead of governing responsibly.

Obama railed at length against Republican lawmakers, whom he accused of “holding the economy hostage” by threatening not to fund the government and not to raise the government’s debt limit.

“Unfortunately right now, the debate going on in Congress is not meeting the test of helping middle class families,” Obama said. “They’re not focused on you. They’re focused on politics. They’re focused on trying to mess with me. They’re not focused on you.”

Obama’s rousing speech at a growing Ford manufacturing plant here on the outskirts of Kansas City amounted to an opening salvo against House Republicans heading into another intense skirmish over federal spending.

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