Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused President Obama of trying to hide the effects of next year's so-called "sequester" spending cuts on jobs in order to avoid alerting workers that they could be laid off just before the election.
"The president doesn't want people reading about pink slips in the weeks before his election, so the White House is telling people to keep the effects of these cuts secret — don't tell anybody, he says, keep it a secret — until, of course, after the election," McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday.
On Monday, the Department of Labor issued guidance on the 1988 Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act (WARN) that said companies did not need to issue the layoff warnings because it is unclear whether sequestration will go forward, or how it would go forward.
McConnell argued Labor issued the guidance to further Obama's reelection effort.
"In other words, the president's trying to keep those folks in the dark about whether they can expect to lose their jobs or not," he said. "Why? Well, I think it's pretty obvious: to insulate himself from the political fallout that will result."
McConnell and Republicans have pushed the Obama administration to outline the defense cuts that would be required by sequestration, but he complained they have received no answers.
"For weeks, Republicans asked the president to tell the American people how he plans to carry out these cuts," he said. "He's simply refused to do so."
Both the House and Senate have passed legislation that would require the Obama administration to report on its plans for dealing with the sequester cuts in early January, within 30 days after it is signed into law. That bill, H.R. 5872, is listed as "pending" on the White House website, and the White House has not indicated when or whether it plans to sign that bill into law.
McConnell said Obama's opposition to warning about the effects of the sequester fit in with a larger pattern in which the president has said he supports workers, but enacts policies that hurt workers. McConnell said Obama has told business owners that they're not responsible for their success, and that rather than pursue policies to create jobs early on, he pursued a costly healthcare bill.
"What's most upsetting is the deception that lies at the heart of so many of the sales jobs, from healthcare to the stimulus," McConnell said. "Americans wanted the president to focus on jobs, and he focused on a healthcare bill that we now learn not only included a tax on the middle class, but which will lead to hundreds ... of thousands of fewer jobs.
"The president claims he's fighting for middle class, but three and a half years into his presidency, their wages are still stagnant, while their dependency on government assistance actually continues to rise."
—This story was posted at 11:15 a.m. and updated at 1:42 p.m.