BOSTON — Gov. Deval L. Patrick criticized Republicans in Congress today for holding up progress on the economy for political gain, and called on businesses to get the message out that “subversion is unacceptable” when it comes to political action to restore economic growth.
The governor said he expects President Barack Obama to beat Mitt Romney in the fall if the election debate is focused on the country’s future. He added that he believes that the partisan polarization in Congress that he referred to as a “sclerosis” will fade out if the Democrats hold on to the White House.
Speaking to about 200 business leaders from the New England Council, Mr. Patrick pointed to state investments in education, infrastructure and innovation, even at the bottom of the economic cycle, for the state’s success in lowering unemployment and developing high tech and clean energy jobs in the state over the last four years.
He pointed to the inability of Congress to reach agreement on a long term re-authorization of federal transportation programs and funding as the most recent example of Republican efforts to thwart the president’s attempts to boost economic recovery.
President Obama, he said, “has been asked to fight the recession effectively with one hand tied behind his back” because of Congressional opposition to his policies.
Both parties have long agreed that investments in roads, rails and bridges was “a smart thing for government to do,” to sustain economic growth and a high standard of living, Mr. Patrick said. But this Congress, he argued, has put politics over economic progress by approving only a multi-month transportation funding bill instead of approving a long term investment bill.
“A small, yet emboldened group in Washington is holding that up. They are more committed to defeating the president it seems, even if it requires driving the economy over a cliff,” he said.
The governor also commented on the prospect of Mr. Romney squaring off with the president in the fall, saying he viewed it as an election over character, not of the candidates, but of the electorate.
“This is a character election. But not character in the sense we usually talk about, not the character of the candidates, the character of the country,” the governor said.
“We’ve seen very, very different visions of the future laid out,” he said, before casting the presidential contest in terms he used to describe his own brand of politics during his 2010 re-election campaign.
“I think the president believes what he says. When he talks about the Ryan budget as a pessimistic vision of the future, he means it, and I think he is right,” Mr. Patrick said of the federal budget plan recently adopted by the House that would dramatically cut federal programs.
“In some ways, it’s a clearer choice that we have faced as Americans. It’s a choice we as Americans will make about our country, not just about our policy,” the governor said.
The comments came in a wide ranging talk during which the governor defended his foreign trade missions to China, Brasil and Chile to expand the state’s economy. He also defended state investments in clean energy, life sciences, transportation improvements and education, even during the recession. He said they have resulted in job growth and expansion of new industries in the state while creating a new era of innovation in Massachusetts.