House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at a news conference. (Alex Wong/Getty Images )
WASHINGTON -- The sliding jobs picture provoked an intense round of finger-pointing on Capitol Hill, where Republicans and Democrats blamed each other for failing to cross the aisle to support policies they say would spur economic growth.
Friday’s unemployment rate spike, to 8.2% for May, saddles lawmakers with one of the worst economic outlooks in decades as they head into the fall election, giving new urgency to the summer debate over the divergent economic approaches that will define President Obama and his GOP challenger, Mitt Romney, and their parties in November.
“It’s clear that the policies we’ve seen are not working,” said House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who criticized the president’s jobs proposals as campaign slogans.
“Maybe the president ought to get out of the badminton game and get into the rugby game that is right in front of him,” Boehner said.
Obama’s Democratic allies on the Hill, though, were swift to strike back, saying the GOP’s jobs agenda is little more than tax breaks for the wealthy, a return to a supply-side economics approach they argued has not worked to create jobs.
“Republicans have no jobs plan,” said Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the minority leader. “Their only plan is to hand more tax breaks to millionaires, Big Oil, special interests, and corporations that ship jobs overseas.”
Boehner has promised votes in the House this summer to continue tax breaks for all Americans, including the wealthy, as a way to create jobs, alongside federal budget austerity measures to rein in the debt load.
Democrats want action on Obama’s job-creation agenda, which includes tax credits for companies that return jobs from overseas and hire veterans, that Republicans are blocking, and they argue that those earning more than $1 million a year should pay more taxes.
Boehner said Friday that Obama should consider the more than 30 jobs-related bills that have been passed by Republicans in the House but stalled in the Senate. Most of those bills deal with rolling back federal regulations that Republicans say would make it easier for companies to continue to operate or expand. Economists have said a regulatory overhaul would not likely give an immediate boost to the jobs outlook.