Jobs and Washington: Who's doing what?

Published: Friday, Oct. 7 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

(r-l) Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., head to the floor.

Associated Press

The debate over which party in Washington has been working harder to create jobs is likely to be a central focus in the coming 2012 election. The answer may be: It depends.

The question of jobs and Washington has at its root the issue of party philosophy — what do Republicans believe will help create jobs, and what have they done to promote that belief? Likewise, what do Democrats believe, and how have they promoted their positions?

For President Barack Obama, the answer to the current 9.1 unemployment rate — or the 16.5 percent rate according to the U-6 measure — comes in the form of his $447 billion American Jobs Act. The bill, the White House says, will help create jobs by cutting employer payroll taxes, spurring the hiring of teachers and first responders and boosting infrastructure spending.

In a Thursday news conference, the president challenged the Republican-led House to pass the bill, saying they will answer to the American people if they dont.

If Congress does something, then I cant run against a do-nothing Congress, Obama said. If Congress does nothing, then its not a matter of me running against them. I think the American people will run them out of town, because they are frustrated, and they know we need to do something big and something bold.

According to The Washington Post, the presidents words represent one aspect of Obamas reelection message: That while he has worked to improve the economy, the Republicans are putting aside the country to focus on getting him kicked out of office.

After the speech White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tweeted, As POTUS said, he welcomes GOP ideas that would grow the economy and put people back to work NOW. Where are they?

Heres a little homework assignment for folks, Obama said at the news conference Thursday. Go ask the Republicans what their jobs plan is, if theyre opposed to the American Jobs Act. And have it scored, have it assessed by the same independent economists that assessed our jobs plan.

Greg Sargent, writing at The Washington Post, said the "homework" reveals a core question: Are Republicans making a legitimate contribution to the debate over what to do with the economy?

As Obama pointed out, Sargent writes, there is no Republican initiative that can meaningfully be called a jobs bill. To the extent that they do bother to develop bills and move them to the House floor, Republicans arent really legislating, because they have no intention of developing laws that can pass through the Senate and earn the presidents signature.

While the idea of a do-nothing Congress seems like a seductive message to utilize during the 2012 election season, Republicans like Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, take exception to the claim.

Nothing has disappointed me more than whats happened over the last five weeks, to watch the president of the United States give up on governing, give up on leading, and spend full time campaigning, Boehner said. All year, Ive reached out to the president. Yet the president, some 14 months before the election, throws in the towel Were legislating; hes campaigning.

The Republican website, jobs.jop.gov, lists six tactics Republicans have used to shape their jobs agenda. These include reducing regulatory burdens that hinder economic growth, streamlining and reforming the tax code, passing three pending free trade agreements, modernizing the patent system, increasing domestic energy production and cutting government spending.

According to House Majority Leader Eric Cantors website, Republicans have pushed forward with their jobs agenda — despite Democrat claims to the contrary — by passing a number of bills that have since become stuck in the Senate. These jobs bills include:

The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act

The Energy Tax Prevention Act

Disapproval of FCCs Net Neutrality Regulations

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