The White House and its Democratic allies in Congress are refocusing on jobs. To which Republicans say: It's about time.
"I say you gotta be kidding me. They have for months now been about more spending, leaving a wake of deficits in their trail, and now they want to focus on what’s important," Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 Republican in the House, told reporters today.
"Sometimes it is difficult for us to take the other side seriously, but if they are serious we welcome this news. Republicans have been working for months now trying to forge solutions as to how to get Americans back to work. We urge Speaker Pelosi to take into consideration some of the Republican solutions for job creation and look forward to working together so that we can get this economy back on track,” he added.
UPDATE: WASHINGTON -- Continuing his focus on swine flu, Senator Paul G. Kirk Jr. today questioned why it's taking so long to get the vaccine to states.
At a hearing of the Senate homeland security committee, the Massachusetts Democrat noted that there have been about 22 million cases of H1N1 nationwide and 3,900 deaths, including more than 1,500 confirmed cases in the Bay State since April.
State officials said last month that vaccine deliveries were running three weeks behind and that shortages were being reported.
"Many of us are seriously concerned that far more individuals will come down with the virus, and far more lives will be lost, before sufficient quantities of the vaccine arrive," Kirk said in his opening remarks. (His full prepared opening statement is below.)
UPDATE: Representative John Boehner added his criticism, noting that the national debt has passed a mindboggling $12 trillion.
"A $12 trillion national debt is just the latest fallout from Washington Democrats’ unprecedented spending binge. The American people are asking ‘where are the jobs?’ but all they are getting from out-of-touch Washington Democrats is more unsustainable spending and debt to be paid by our kids and grandkids. Instead of taking immediate, bipartisan action to cut spending, Washington Democrats are preparing to double down on their trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ with a $1.3 trillion government takeover of health care and a promise to address fiscal responsibility sometime next year," he said in a statement.
“The American people deserve better than a government that kicks the can down the road. It is past time for Congress to adopt strict budget caps that limit federal spending on an annual basis, which was a critical plank in the budget alternative Republicans proposed earlier this year.”
Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Cantor's Democratic counterpart, said Democrats will try to pass a job-creation plan this year that could include money for highway construction and tax credits for small businesses.
Hoyer told reporters today that it wouldn't be as sweeping as the $787 billion economic stimulus enacted in February, saying, “We need to act in a way that does get to the creation of job opportunities of people in the short term.”
Just before President Obama departed on his Asia trip, he announced a jobs forum to come up with any and all ideas to stem rising unemployment, at 10.2 percent nationally last month.
The White House announced Monday night that the forum will be Dec. 3. “During these difficult economic times, we have a responsibility to consider all good ideas to encourage and accelerate job creation in this country. At the forum next month, I am looking forward to hearing from the private sector, from CEOs and small business owners and from Americans struggling to make ends meet on how we can work together to create jobs and get this economy moving again,” Obama said in a statement.
The White House also announced that the following day, Obama will kick off a "Main Street Tour" in Allentown, Pa., "that will take him to cities and towns across the country over the course of the next few months" to "take the temperature on what Americans are experiencing during these challenging economic times."
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.