White House officials defend economic efforts, hit Republicans for blocking

White House officials defend economic efforts, hit Republicans for blocking

A pair of President Obama’s top advisers took to the Sunday talk-show circuit to defend the administration's efforts to bolster the economy and make the case that Obama’s Republican rivals have no good solutions.

The economic emphasis in remarks by campaign strategist David Axelrod and David Plouffe, a senior White House adviser, underscore the threat that the sour economy and persistently high unemployment pose to Obama’s reelection prospects.

Axelrod, on CNN, defended the collection of executive actions Obama unveiled over the past week, while making the case for the broader $447 billion jobs package that has stalled in Congress.

“The president's all over the country talking about what we can do immediately. He's got ideas about how we rebuild the middle class in the long run. And the other side will offer their ideas. Theirs seem to be to go back to what we were doing before the crisis,” Axelrod said.

He said the program announced last week to help struggling homeowners with their mortgages is a “big thing” for those families.

Obama also rolled out proposals on helping veterans find work, small businesses and aid with student debt that do not need approval from Congress.

It is the legislative branch, the White House and the president have been saying, that is preventing effective government action. Axelrod argued that Obama would hunt even bigger game if Republicans would cooperate.

“There are larger things we can do. Obviously the American Jobs Act, all economists agree would have a market effect on economic growth and would create millions of jobs. We just have to get the congress to act on it. Their strategy seems to be obstruction and delay,” he said of the jobs bill that includes new infrastructure spending, a payroll tax cut and other proposals.

While Obama’s overall jobs package isn’t moving in Congress, Plouffe and Axelrod used it to contrast White House plans with Republicans. Plouffe said the bill would create up to two million jobs and “jumpstart” the economy.

“Right now, we haven't been able to get largely Republicans in Congress to cooperate. So we're going to continue to push for things like cutting taxes for the middle class, putting construction workers back to work,” Plouffe said.

“But in the meantime, the president's going to do everything he can, whether it's on housing, student loans, we're going to keep this up,” he said.

Republicans counter that they have passed their own jobs bills that are being killed in the Senate, which is under Democratic control.

“Unfortunately, many of the jobs bills the House has passed are stuck in the Democratic-led Senate. We call these bills the ‘forgotten 15,'” said Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.), who gave his party's weekly address.

The 15 bills include measures that mandate a major expansion of offshore drilling and faster permitting; block several recent or upcoming Environmental Protection Agency regulations; and thwart the Federal Communications Commission’s “net neutrality” rules, among other proposals.

“These bills are common-sense bills that address those excessive federal regulations that are hurting small business job creation,” said Schilling.

This round of comments on the economy come amid glimmers of good news that are nonetheless unlikely to be enough to save Obama from seeking reelection in the midst of a still-struggling economy next year.

Axelrod warned that the economy faces “deep” problems that were years in the making and that there is no “silver bullet.”

The economy added 103,000 jobs in September, but it was not enough to dent the unemployment rate, which remained at 9.1 percent.

And as The Hill’s Peter Schroeder reported, even though the economy grew by a fairly healthy 2.5 percent in the third quarter of the year, European turmoil has waged a toll on U.S. financial markets, which in turn has weighed on the broader economy.

On Tuesday, the Conference Board reported that consumer confidence levels had fallen to levels not seen since the financial crisis — even lower than in August during the debt limit fight.

The White House and campaign officials argue that Republican ideas won’t help.

“What we shouldn't do is go back to doing what we have heard from these Republican candidates, from the Congress, let's just deregulate Wall Street, let them go back to writing their own rules, let's cut taxes for the ... very top. It is the same strategy that has failed this country and they want to go back to it,” Axelrod said.

Plouffe also sought to align Obama with the concerns expressed by the Occupy Wall Street Movement, even while declining to answer directly when asked if Obama stands in “solidarity” with the protests in New York that have spread to other cities.

“Our sense is that in living rooms and kitchens all across the country, you have that same sense of an economy that’s not working well enough for the middle class, and I think that is going to be a powerful current in our politics, certainly for the next year but probably for a long time after that,” Plouffe said.

Plouffe also sought to use the protest movement as an attack on Republicans.

“One simple issue that is going to be an important part of next year by the way: The president passed Wall Street reform to protect taxpayers from ever having to bail out big banks again, to protect consumers,” he said when asked about Occupy Wall Street.

“The Republican Party here in Washington, for the most part, and I believe all the Republican presidential candidates, want to repeal Wall Street reform. What message does that send after the 2008 crash, that we want to go back to the same rules we have,” he said.