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Obama’s economic push inspires new GOP attacks

As President Obama aims to focus public attention on the economy once again, House and Senate Republicans have offered two different critiques in an effort to undermine his message: Obama's economic plans could lead to a government shutdown, and they are the latest sign the administration keeps changing the topic of conversation.

Will either of these arguments hold traction? Between the two of them, Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), offered a stronger case Tuesday, suggesting Obama's opposition to extending sequestration could lead to another government shutdown.

"You see, last month, through a series of Statements of Administration Policy, the president announced that he would not sign ANY spending bills this year unless sequestration spending cuts are eliminated – and replaced with his plan for higher, job-destroying taxes,"  Buck said. "The result of refusing to sign into law any spending bills, of course, would mean an unavoidable government shutdown. This was a stunning announcement for a president who has decried manufactured crises in Washington."

"To be sure, sequestration – a budget-cutting device of the president’s own creation – is crude. It’s the wrong way to wipe out our deficit," Buck wrote."That’s why the House twice passed legislation to replace it with smarter cuts. But it remains in place because the president refuses to do anything meaningful to tackle our spending problem and long-term structural challenges. It’s hard to be optimistic that will change this week, but perhaps we have something wondrous in store. We’ll have to tune in."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), by contrast, suggested during a floor speech Tuesday that Obama and his aides had resorted to one of the most "overused expressions in Washington" to launch the new economic push: "pivot."

"I say this not just because it’s used too much to really mean anything, but also because it’s a troubling frame of mind," McConnell said. "I mean, the idea that the White House can simply 'pivot' to jobs for a day or two, then abandon it for a few weeks or months, then pivot back again for a couple days, really epitomizes an attitude that turns people off from politics."

There are a couple of issues with this line of attack: one, the president is giving multiple speeches this week on the economy, and will continue to give these sorts of addresses for the next few months.

Two, neither the president nor his aides have used the dreaded word "pivot" during their rollout of this latest public relations push.

But just because the White House hasn't used the word "pivot" doesn't mean the administration hasn't switched from topic to topic frequently -- usually because of events outside of the president's control, ranging from the controversy surrounding the Internal Revenue Service to upheaval in Egypt and Syria. Still, if this battle is joined over terminology, than McConnell's argument is going to be less compelling than Buck's warnings of a government shutdown in the fall.

Obama will have to parry both arguments this week. So for this round, House Republicans are in the lead.




Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post's White House bureau chief, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.



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