“We’re legislating; he’s campaigning. It’s very disappointing,” Boehner told National Journal’s Major Garrett during a question-and-answer session at The Atlantic’s annual Washington Ideas Forum.
Boehner made his remarks just as Obama was holding a White House news conference at which he urged Congress to pass Senate Democrats’ re-worked version of his $447 billion jobs package. Boehner’s appearance at the Atlantic event had been scheduled before the White House announced Obama’s news conference Thursday morning.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded to Boehner’s criticism via Twitter Thursday afternoon.
“Dear Mr. Speaker: you refuse to hold a vote on the Jobs Act, a mainstream bill that would boost economy & jobs now,” Carney tweeted. “That’s legislating?”
Even as Boehner made the case that Congress is hard at work, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll this week tells a different story: it shows Congress’s approval rating hitting a new low of 14 percent, with 62 percent of respondents saying they “strongly disapprove” of the job Congress is doing.
Boehner on Thursday dismissed the notion that Americans are more fed up with Congress than they have been in the past.
“Listen, the Congress of the United States has been America’s favorite whipping boy for 200 years,” Boehner said, adding that “people are concerned” about the economy and the direction in which the country is moving.
Boehner’s remarks come as the bipartisan, bicameral “supercommittee” enters its second month of work on a proposal to shave at least $1.2 trillion from the deficit over the next 10 years. If the panel does not come to an agreement by Thanksgiving, an across-the-board spending cut will be enacted to both domestic discretionary and defense spending – the latter a point of particular concern for congressional Republicans.
“I made it clear to the Republican members of the supercommittee that I expect there will be an outcome,” Boehner said Thursday. “There has to be an outcome. ... I don’t underestimate how hard it’s going to be to come to an agreement by the so-called supercommittee, but we have to get to one.”
He added that he believes that “our government has to act” on getting the country’s debt under control – and just as Obama did at his White House news conference Thursday morning, Boehner pointed to Europe’s continuing debt problems as a reason why the U.S. must take action.
“We’ve got a big deficit problem,” he said. “We’ve got a big debt problem. The problems in Europe continue to loom. Their problems are larger than ours, and it’s incumbent upon us to show the American people that we can do the right thing.”
Boehner also weighed in on former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s (R) announcement late Wednesday that she will not run for president in 2012.
“I like Sarah Palin,” Boehner said. “I know Sarah Palin. Spent a couple of days in Alaska with her before she ended up in this odyssey of the last few years. I think she made the right decision for herself. I think she can play a role in the upcoming elections, and I wish her well.”
Would Boehner like Palin to campaign for Republican candidates this election cycle?
“I think it’d be very helpful,” he said.