Speaker John Boehner (left) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor are seen at a Wednesday news conference at the Republican National Committee. GOP leaders are struggling to put the focus on the partys jobs agenda.
House Republicans checked off a major box on their jobs agenda Wednesday when the chamber passed a package of trade deals — an accomplishment the GOP has touted as a central piece of its economic plan.
Unfortunately for Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and his Conference, the glow might be fleeting, in part because of the party’s difficulty selling the rest of its jobs agenda to the public.
Republican leaders have struggled to make the case for the agenda, which is based on deregulation, reductions in spending and tax cuts, thanks to a series of fiscal crises, the esoteric nature of much of their agenda and a sometimes raucous caucus that has thrown them off message.
“We just haven’t made the sale yet,” a Republican lawmaker conceded recently, saying that while the GOP firmly believes in the proposals, voters are not sold.
The lack of public traction is all the more remarkable when compared to their victories this year in shifting the budget debate from how much to spend and where to where to cut spending and how deeply.
By early spring, even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) began adopting tougher deficit reduction rhetoric.
But the public remains deeply skeptical of Republicans on jobs and the economy, with consistent polling showing the public trusts President Barack Obama more for his handling of the economy than Congressional Republicans.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said it is unfair to separate measures such as this week’s air quality bill from the broader agenda, insisting they are linked and will create jobs.
“The American people know we can’t get our economy moving again and create jobs without addressing out-of-control spending in Washington,” Steel said.
Aside from spending, Republicans have passed other parts of their agenda, including numerous deregulation bills, patent reform and Wednesday’s three trade deals.
Republicans have also continued to hit on the jobs theme in their messaging.
“The fact is Republicans have a plan — our Plan for America’s Job Creators — that we outlined back in May, and we have been working since May to enact the ideas outlined in this proposal,” Boehner said Wednesday.
“Our job on behalf of the American people is to find common ground and to do our best for them, and we will continue to do that,” Boehner added.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.