Reid: House is ‘big black hole’ for bills that would create half a million jobs

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday blamed the House for not acting on bills that he claims would create more than half a million jobs.

Reid’s charge comes amid heightening concern about the economy and the nation’s rising unemployment rate. It also represents a shift in tactics — the Senate traditionally has been criticized as the graveyard for House-passed bills. With his comment Tuesday, Reid is seeking to turn that conventional wisdom on its head. 

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He blasted the House as a “big black hole” that has refused to act on bills cleared by the upper chamber, and added that “nothing is coming out of there other than their idea of how to kill Medicare.”

Reid said the House has buried two bills — patent reform legislation and Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization — that together would help create or save an estimated 580,000 jobs. 

The Nevada Republican claimed House Republicans, who took over the chamber at the beginning of this year, “always come up with reasons not to do things so we cannot check off an accomplishment in this administration.”

Reid said Tea Party-affiliated conservatives were tying the House in knots. 

“You know, I don’t want to get Speaker [John] Boehner [R-Ohio] in trouble, but there are times when I actually feel sorry for him,” Reid told reporters. “He’s got this group of people that make no sense.”

Boehner’s office fired back immediately. 

“Is the big, dark hole where Senate Democrats are hiding their budget?” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. “Look, Sen. Reid is describing Bizarro World, where up is down and right is left. Here on earth, the House is stacking bill after bill that would create jobs on Senate Democrats’ doorstep — and they’re trying to make excuses for ignoring them.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday mocked Democrats for their definition of jobs legislation: “Well, our friends on the other side of the aisle will call any bill that comes up now a jobs bill.”

McConnell and other Republican leaders said one remedy to the nation’s 9.1 percent unemployment rate would be to pass three pending trade deals, on Korea, Panama and Colombia. 

The finger-pointing between the parties is sure to escalate if the economy continues to sour.

In the last Congress, Reid attracted friendly fire for not moving House bills. 

Toward the end of last year, frustrated House Democratic leaders compiled a list of more than 400 House-passed bills that were languishing in the Democratic-controlled Senate. 

This year, there is a different dynamic, with divided government. Political analysts say there is a chance that one or both majorities in the House and Senate could flip next year.

Reid on Tuesday lamented that substantive legislating has become mired in election-year politics, even though the election is 17 months away. 

Legislative progress has slowed as the high-level negotiations over raising the national debt limit have sucked up most of the energy and attention on Capitol Hill.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said Tuesday that there is not much point in his moving a Democratic budget resolution before Vice President Biden and congressional leaders have reached a broad deficit-reduction deal. 

A senior Senate aide said tax reform, another major priority, would be on hold until Biden’s group strikes an agreement. 

The debate over the budget and Medicare reform that preoccupied the Senate before the Memorial Day recess, was pushed to the background after the Labor Department released disappointing employment numbers Friday. 

Senate Republicans returning from the recess hit President Obama and his Democratic congressional allies hard on the disappointing numbers, which administration officials characterized as “bumps on the road to recovery.”

Austan Goolsbee, the president’s outgoing chief economic adviser, stresses the private sector has added more than 2.1 million jobs over the past month.

McConnell charged Tuesday that job creation has sputtered because Obama’s agenda has put a burden on businesses. 

“For two and a half years, Democrats in Washington have paid lip service to the idea of job creation — even as they’ve relentlessly pursued an agenda that is radically opposed to it. And the results speak for themselves,” he said. 

Reid pledged he would do everything he could to prove to voters that Republicans are obstructionists, a strategy that took up much of the chamber’s floor time in the 2010 election year.

“I’m going to continue to focus on everything I can in the procedural things that are at my disposal to show the American people what the Republicans are not allowing us to do,” Reid said.

Josiah Ryan contributed.