By Mike Lillis - 06/19/12 06:02 PM EDT
House Democratic leaders this week are intensifying accusations that Republicans want to sink the economy simply to defeat President Obama in November.
The Democrats say House GOP leaders are sitting on a host of proposals – some of them with broad bipartisan support – that could create jobs immediately. Republicans are refusing to bring those bills to the floor, the Democrats charge, because an improved economy could play to Obama's advantage in the polls.
"Time and again they [Republicans] would rather see Obama fail than the country succeed."
Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the House Democratic whip, piled on later in the morning.
"The failure to address the highway bill, the president's request for a jobs bill [and] other pieces of action on the fiscal posture that we confront – all of which would give confidence and stability to the markets and therefore grow the economy – those steps are not being taken by the Republicans to the detriment of the economy and the creation of jobs," Hoyer said during his weekly press briefing in the Capitol. "And I think they ought to be held accountable for that inaction."
Democratic charges of GOP obstructionism, which have been percolating since Obama took the White House, were fueled in late 2010 when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said his "single most important" goal "is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
But with a number of spending and authorization bills set to expire this summer, the Democrats have stepped up their charges that Republicans are purposefully obstructing economic fixes to fulfill McConnell's wishes.
Standing front and center of the Democrats' messaging push is legislation reauthorizing highway funding, which expires at the end of June. The Senate in March passed a two-year, $109 billion reauthorization bill with support from 75 lawmakers – a rare show of bipartisanship in the upper chamber this Congress. But House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), who failed earlier in the year to rally his caucus behind his own highway bill, has declined to take it up, largely because it omits a House provision approving the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.
House Republicans instead approved a short-term fix that funds highway projects through Sept. 30 – with hopes of crafting a conference committee compromise with Senate Democrats.
Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) this week is offering a nonbinding proposal urging the conference committee to finalize a deal by the end of the week or concede to the Senate bill.
"This has bipartisan support, it passed the Senate [and] it's ready to go," Walz said Tuesday.
Democrats are also urging GOP leaders to take up a bipartisan bill extending low rates on some student loans, and another extending the Bush-era tax cuts for those earning less than $1 million per year – bills they say will increase consumer spending and lead to new hiring.
Republicans, meanwhile, have focused their economic agenda on proposals to slash spending, increase domestic oil-and-gas production and scale back federal regulations they say are hobbling businesses. They're pointing to 30 such proposals – passed by the House – that Senate Democrats have declined to consider.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) on Tuesday accused Obama and the Democrats of harming the economy by ignoring those bills.
"It’s been clear over the last couple weeks that the president is not interested in staying focused on jobs and the economy," Cantor told reporters at a Capitol press briefing. "In fact, it seems that he’s interested in talking about everything else but jobs, the economy and getting people back to work.
"That’s what this election is about," he added. "This election is about people making a decision as to who is best to lead and get this country back to work."
Democrats have rejected the Republicans' jobs agenda, noting that the 30 bills passed with little or no Democratic support and have no chance of passing in the Senate.
"The Republicans will say they sent 30 bills over to the Senate. They sent 30 pieces of message over to the Senate," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said earlier in the month. "We don’t need 30 message bills, we need one good bill, one good bipartisan bill and that’s the transportation bill."
Hoyer echoed that message Tuesday.
"Republicans have the theory [that] if they put 'jobs' in the title that somehow that will make it a jobs bill. Unfortunately it does not," he said. "They are obviously partisan message bills not meant to be substantive."