GOP Seizes on Double-Digit Unemployment Figure
House Republican leaders on Friday seized on October’s double-digit unemployment rate as proof that Democrats’ economic stimulus legislation has failed and their proposed $1.3 trillion health care overhaul will further sink the economy.News of the U.S. unemployment rate rising from 9.8 to 10.2 percent last month — the highest rate since 1983 — is a setback for Democrats and President Barack Obama, who maintain that their $787 billion stimulus package enacted in February is boosting the economy. “Today’s report is yet another reminder that American families and small businesses are still struggling, and the White House response is falling short,— House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in statement.“Democrats pledged that the so-called stimulus’ would create jobs immediately and keep the unemployment rate from going above eight percent. But since the stimulus’ was signed into law, more than three million private sector jobs have been lost. Americans are asking, Where are the jobs?’ but all they’ve gotten from Democrats in Washington is more spending and more debt,— Boehner added.The jobs numbers came just a day before the House is set to vote on its health care overhaul.House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) said he would “plead— with Democrats to cut taxes and said they “should be feeling shame— for proposing a $700 billion tax increase in their health care proposal at a time of record-high unemployment.“Now is not the time to launch a massive, new, government-run insurance plan and pay for it on the backs of working families, small business and family farms,— Pence said on the floor.Some GOP leaders had economic advice for Obama. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) called on the president to “sit down with Republicans to develop bipartisan solutions that will change the direction of this economy and get people working again.— House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.) said the Obama administration should drop “their idea for a ridiculous cap-and-trade— system in pending climate change legislation.Christina Romer, chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, sought to put a positive spin on the jobless figures.Despite the economy losing 190,000 jobs in October, employment in temporary help services increased by 33,700 and the motor vehicle industry posted employment gains. “These are hopeful signs that the unprecedented policy actions are working to stabilize the economy and put us on a path toward recovery,— Romer said.Still, Romer conceded that the 10.2 percent unemployment rate “is a stark reminder of how much work remains to be done.—Some House Democrats were already pushing back on Republicans eager to blame them for policies that led to the double-digit unemployment rate. “The American public didn’t buy the argument that the other side has a better idea, and that’s why they’re in the minority,— Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) said on the floor.Senate Democratic leaders also signaled that Republicans didn’t have much room to gripe, given that they stalled approval of a $21 billion unemployment benefits package by more than a month. The bill, which Obama is poised to sign on Friday, also contains tax credit incentives for homebuyers and suffering businesses.“These are crocodile tears from politicians who had to be dragged kicking and screaming just to extend unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed,— said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) used the unemployment numbers to call for a fresh start to crafting a new health care proposal with a lower price tag. “I know the administration shares our goals of job creation and economic growth. But more debt, more spending, higher taxes and growing the size of government clearly has not worked — particularly in a time of double-digit unemployment,— McConnell said.Jessica Brady and Jackie Kucinich contributed to this story.