Boehner dials up attack on Obama; calls for firing of White House economic team

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) blasted the Obama administration's economic policies in a speech Tuesday and called on the president to fire his top two economic lieutenants.

Boehner wants President Obama to ask for and accept the resignations of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers, head of the National Economic Council. Firing his economic team is one of five actions Boehner argues the president should take to right the economy.

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The White House fired back from the highest level. Speaking at a stimulus act event at the White House Tuesday, Vice President Biden ripped Boehner's call to fire Geithner and Summers.

Biden mockingly said "[that was] very constructive advice and we thank the leader for that."

The vice president claimed Boehner wants to restore Bush administration economic policies that he argues drove the economy into a deep recession.

"Before we arrived in the West Wing Mr. Boehner and the Republican Party ran the economy literally into the ground," he said.

"They think that the policies they had in place for eight years during the Bush administration were the right ones," he added. "I respect their honesty, I respect them for saying what they think.

"Mr. Boehner is nostalgic for those good old days, but the American people are not ... they want to move forward."

In his speech, Boehner criticized the administration's economic team for lacking private sector experience, saying employers and small businesses are "rightly frustrated" by the administration. "The lack of real-world, hands-on experience shows in the policies of this administration," Boehner said.  

"Obama should ask for - and accept - the resignations of the remaining members of his economic team, starting with Secretary Geithner and Larry Summers, the head of the National Economic Council," he said. "Now, this is no substitute for a referendum on the president's job-killing agenda. That question will be put before the American people in due time. But we do not have the luxury of waiting months for the president to pick scapegoats for his failing 'stimulus' policies. We've tried 19 months of government-as-community organizer. It hasn't worked. Our fresh start needs to begin now."

Christina Romer, chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers, resigned earlier this month, following Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag in July. Boehner said that other members of the administration's economic team should see "the writing on the wall."

Boehner, who is poised to become the new House Speaker if Republicans win back the lower chamber this fall, delivered the address at the City Club of Cleveland on Tuesday morning.

The weak economy is hurting Obama and congressional Democrats in the polls, and a run of poor economic news shows no signs of ending. Several analysts of Congressional races see dozens of seats now held by Democrats as in play.

The Commerce Department at the end of the week will release new figures expected to show the economy did not grow as much as once thought in the second quarter, and Democrats and the White House are bracing for a new monthly jobs report set for release next week.

Democrats had already started to rip Boehner's speech on Monday in what they described as a pre-buttle, and White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer earlier on Tuesday continued the counter-attack.

Pfeiffer, writing on the White House’s blog, argued Boehner and the Republican Party are offering the same economic policies of the George W. Bush administration. Pfeiffer defended the administration's economic policies as creating private sector jobs for seven months in a row.

Pfeiffer argued that the Republican policies are the same, "out of control deficits, decreased oversight of the big Wall Street banks that helped create the financial crisis and putting special interests first by maintaining tax loopholes for corporations that ship American jobs overseas."

Deputy White House spokesman Bill Burton continued the attack, saying Boehner's speech was a "full-throated defense of what is indefensible."

The president is not satisfied with the pace of the recovery, Burton said Tuesday in Martha’s Vineyard, where Obama is vacationing. But Burton said the president is encouraged that the economy is moving in the right direction after Republican policies led to millions of lost jobs.

Burton referenced the president's now familiar campaign theme that Republicans drove the economy into a ditch, criticizing Boehner for calling for the resignations of the people trying to drive that car out of the ditch.

Two senior House Democrats also stood by the White House economic team.

Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) said Geithner and Summer, should stay in their jobs.

“I think that they should stay. At this point in time, you don’t want to send uncertain signals,” Van Hollen, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday.

Levin, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said Geithner and Summers should not resign and that Boehner’s call was “an effort in a few words to obscure the lack of a Republican plan and their standing in the doorway.”

Republicans, Levin said, “have been a blockade” to Democratic efforts to spur the economy.

Although they rejected Boehner’s suggestion, Van Hollen and Levin stopped short of a full-throated endorsement for Geithner and Summers, reflecting the fact that both have come under criticism from Democrats as well as Republicans.

Much of Boehner's speech focused on spending and taxes, which Congress is set to debate upon its return to Washington in September.

Boehner wants the president to extend the Bush tax cuts that expire this year and to offer an aggressive plan to cut spending.

Allowing the tax cuts approved in 2001 and 2003 to expire would hurt small businesses and hamper economic growth, according to Boehner. "Raising taxes on families and small businesses during a recession is a recipe for disaster, both for our economy and for the deficit. Period. End of story," he said.

On spending, Boehner said that Congress should agree to cut non-defense discretionary spending to 2008 levels when it returns to work.

He also said Obama should promise not to sign any "job-killing" bills approved by a lame-duck Congress after the mid-term elections. Boehner specifically mentioned climate change legislation already approved by the House, and a bill making it easier for unions to organize.

Boehner's fifth call for action was that Obama should call on Democratic leaders to work with Republicans to repeal a part of the healthcare law that requires businesses to file 1099 reporting forms with the IRS on all purchases over $600.  

A central part of Boehner's argument is that the Obama administration's policies have helped the public sector at the expense of the private sector.

"Since February 2009, the private sector has lost millions of jobs while the federal government has grown by hundreds of thousands of workers," Boehner said. "We've seen not just more government jobs, but better-paying ones too. Federal employees now make on average more than double what private sector workers take in."

Boehner argues that this gap has more than doubled in Obama's first year in office even as private sector employees lost their jobs.

"It's just nonsense to think that taxpayers are subsidizing the fattened salaries and pensions of federal bureaucrats who are out there right now making it harder to create private sector jobs," Boehner said.

-- This story was posted at 9:13 p.m. and updated at 10:05 a.m. and 11:16 a.m.

-- Russell Berman, Sam Youngman and Jordan Fabian contributed to this story.