Republicans seek Obama's weak spot with jobs plan

Reuters News
Posted: May 26, 2011 1:33 PM
Republicans seek Obama's weak spot with jobs plan

By Thomas Ferraro and Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congressional Republicans unveiled a jobs agenda on Thursday, shifting the subject from their unpopular healthcare plan and hitting President Barack Obama where it hurts -- the 9 percent unemployment rate.

Their jobs-creation proposals, largely a repacking of policies they have long advocated, include lowering taxes, reducing federal regulations, increasing domestic energy production, boosting trade and discouraging frivolous lawsuits.

"Just because we proposed it in the past doesn't mean it's not a good idea," House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner told a Capitol Hill news conference.

"We're trying to package this in a way where the American people understand what it's going to take in terms of changing policies here that will create jobs in America," said Boehner, flanked by fellow House Republican leaders.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi brushed off the Republican plan as a "warmed-over stew" of failed ideas that contributed to the weak economy under former President George W. Bush.

The economy promises to again be a core issue for voters in the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.

America's unemployment rate was 7.8 percent when Obama took office in January 2009. It rose to nearly 10 percent during last November's election and has since dipped to 9.0 percent.

The economic recovery remains fragile, economic data shows.

A report on Thursday showed the economy grew at a scant 1.8 percent annual rate in the first three months of the year and jobless claims remain above 400,000 a week, implying an economic soft patch could likely last through the second quarter and possibly longer.

Republicans won the House from Obama's Democrats in last year's election by keying on a top voter concern, the weak economy, while dismissing Obama's stimulus plan as a failure and repeatedly asking: "Where are the jobs?"

Democrats accuse Republicans of being more interested in cutting government spending than in creating jobs.

Pelosi said the Democratic stimulus package of 2009 created or saved 3.5 million jobs, and that further job-creation bills had been blocked by Senate Republicans.

Republicans offered their plan two days after losing a House seat in a special election in New York, in part because of the unpopularity of their proposal to privatize the Medicare healthcare program for the elderly.

Republicans are sticking by their Medicare plan, but would like to shift attention to other issues, like the economy.

Obama enjoyed a boost in his approval rating -- to more than 50 percent -- after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden, but polls show most Americans still do not approve of his handling of the economy.

(Additional reporting by Glenn Somerville and Kim Dixon; Editing by Vicki Allen)