The Washington Post

Congressional Dems, GOP quick to adopt jobs report for midterm messages

File: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (EPA/SHAWN THEW)

Both parties quickly seized on Friday's jobs report -- in which the jobless rate fell to its lowest level in five years -- to underscore the divergent economic messages they both plan to push during the 2014 midterm election campaign.

The gist: the economy is still far from fixed, and it's the other party's fault.

The new monthly jobs report released Friday morning showed the economy added 288,000 jobs in April -- an uplifting sign after the economic recovery had seemingly stalled over the winter. The report showed the unemployment rate plunging to 6.3 percent, the lowest level since 2008.

Democrats praised the report, using it to highlight their claim that the economy is improving and that it is the Republican's refusal to pass their "Fair Shot" agenda bills -- paycheck fairness, emergency unemployment extension, raising the minimum wage -- is only hurting those who remain jobless.

“Today’s report shows our economy continues to move forward," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “Congress must do more to create an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy.  Unfortunately, Republicans continue to stand in the way."

Pelosi and other congressional Democrats are engaged in a full-fledged messaging push around their "Fair Shot" agenda, in an attempt to convince voters that the Democratic Party will best look out for average Americans while  the GOP is the party of special interests. The agenda is comprised of a roster of bills that are, largely, unlikely to pass Congress.

"Men and women in our country working full-time jobs are stuck raising their families in poverty, yet Republicans refuse to raise the minimum wage," Pelosi said. "More than 2.6 million Americans have been left without an essential lifeline as they weather the crisis of unemployment, yet Republicans refuse to renew emergency unemployment insurance."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) issued a similiar statement, declaring:

“The first thing we should do to grow our economy is raise the minimum wage. The Senate could pass an increase in the minimum wage tomorrow if Republicans would drop their filibuster. Congress can further encourage our economic recovery by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, ensuring women equal pay for equal work, and by acting to foster innovation through job creating investments in our economy."

Meanwhile, congressional Republicans -- careful to note the positive parts of today's jobs reports -- still found ways to criticize Democrats, by focusing on the number of Americans who reported leaving the workforce and saying that even more economic growth would be possible if Senate Democrats would pass a series of House-passed jobs bills.

"While it’s welcome news that more of our friends and neighbors found work in the past month, this report also indicates more than 800,000 Americans left the workforce last month, which is troubling," House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement issued on Friday morning. "House Republicans have made the people’s priorities our priorities, passing jobs bill after jobs bill to expand opportunity and economic security for middle-class families.  President Obama ought to call on his Democratic-led Senate to take up the stacks of House-passed jobs measures so we can get this economy moving again.”

The House has passed a series of bills that Republicans say are job-creation and economic recovery measures. The legislation includes tax cuts and cuts or changes to the Affordable Care Act, and the Senate Democrats have not brought them up for a vote.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) struck a similar tone, noting the positive aspects while also focusing on those who left the labor force before pivoting to criticize Senate Democrats.

"Today's jobs report was very encouraging for those who found jobs and discouraging for those who left the labor force altogether," Cantor said. "We can't just sit back and cross our fingers every month. If we want to see a greater drop in unemployment tied to an increase in the labor force, it's time for the Senate to act."

Wesley Lowery is a national reporter covering law enforcement and justice for the Washington Post. He previously covered Congress and national politics.



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