Senate Dems push back on Pelosi claim that inaction is stalling jobs

Senate Democrats pushed back on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s criticism Thursday that Senate delays in passing the party’s agenda were hindering job creation in a critical election year. The Senate Democrats say Republican obstructionism is to blame.

Senators accused the GOP of pursuing a political strategy that centers on economic failure — which can be pinned on the majority party and, in turn, used to boost Republicans’ electoral prospects.

ADVERTISEMENT
"Yes, healthcare reform dragged on much too long, but here's the bottom line: The Republican strategy from day one — and I respect how open they are about it — is to obstruct everything that's happening. Drag it on, drag it on, and give no support," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who caucuses with Democrats.

"Just look at financial reform today,” Sanders said. “How long did it take us to do that? There's been minimal Republican support. That's their strategy, and it is maybe a good political strategy for Republicans, but a very bad strategy for middle-class families in this country."

Pelosi said in her weekly news conference that if the Senate had moved healthcare, energy and education reform sooner — what she called the “three pillars of job creation” — that more jobs would have been created by now.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said Pelosi is partly correct because so many companies need certainty and reliability, which the Senate has not always been able to provide.

"Businesses like predictability," Carper said. "But there's been uncertainty surrounding healthcare, and we passed that. There's been uncertainty with respect to financial regulatory reform, and we're dealing with that. All that has helped send the right signals and helped set a nurturing environment for job creation and preservation. A little more cooperation from Republicans would help in addressing that."

"I'm not sure it's causal," Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who also meets with the majority party, said of Pelosi's comments. "Healthcare was very difficult over here for [Majority Leader Harry] Reid, and I just think there were other causes for the economic downturn."

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said one solution around the legislative gridlock might be for the Senate to take up legislation first, rather than the House.

"People have to understand things always take longer in the Senate," Landrieu said. "Potentially, we could let some of these items start in the Senate and then go over to the House. That might be a very good solution to our problem. Because then the Senate would send the House something that's already bipartisan, and they could work to build the support they need. Maybe we should try that, because everything gets passed in the House and comes here. It would be better if we started and sent things over there."

Some Democrats said the country's economic outlook was so bleak at the end of 2008 that it has naturally taken a long time to turn it around.

"Things were crashing so badly, and there's no way you can recover instantaneously," said Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska). "I've been through multiple downturns in Alaska, and when they crash hard, it's hard to pick it up quickly. Unfortunately, what you're seeing is that the economy crashed hard."