By Vicki Needham - 07/03/14 06:18 PM EDT
The strong June jobs report released Thursday is giving Democrats a needed boost of confidence ahead of the midterm elections.
Accustomed to the president and his party being blamed for a sluggish economy, Democrats found themselves in an unfamiliar offensive spot with the news that employers added 288,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell near a six-year low last month.
“It’s really important for us to understand that we could be making even stronger progress, we could be growing even more jobs, we could be creating even more business opportunities for smart, talented folks … if those of us here in Washington were focused on them, focused on you, the American people, rather than focused on politics,” he said Thursday.
It was a welcome message shift for Obama, who has never scored well on his handling of the stagnant economy he inherited. A June NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed 54 percent of respondents disapproved of the job he was doing in handling the economy, with just 41 percent approving.
In his daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called the good economic news “an indication that these crises aren't created overnight, and they're not solved overnight, and that there needs to be a long-term, coordinated strategy to strengthen our economy.”
While press releases poured in from House and Senate Democratic leaders, Republicans were uncharacteristically quiet on one of their chief talking points. Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) was the lone GOP leader who released comment.
While Congress is out of session this week for the July 4th holiday recess, neither outgoing Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) nor Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the Majority Leader-elect, sent out their usual statements on the monthly report.
There was similar silence on the Senate side too, with only Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) chiming in on the positive report.
The House and Senate heads of the Joint Economic Committee — Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) — each sent out statements.
In a possible accidental reflection of Democrats’ enthusiasm, Klobuchar’s release was sent out five times.
The positive report, which was the fifth straight month of jobs growth over 200,000 since the late 1990s, put the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee into a war of words over who was responsible for the best and worst state-based jobs numbers.
The DNC argued that the employment surge reflects the positive effects of Obama’s economic policies, but pointed out that states with Republicans governors, such as New Jersey, Florida and Wisconsin, are still lagging behind.
“So while the GOP continues to bill their governors as the future leaders of their party, their poor economic records tell a very different story,” the DNC said in a statement.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus fired back, citing a recent report that “found that the top five states for business are all run by Republican governors."
“We need a Republican majority in the Senate so we can get job-creating legislation to the president’s desk and job-killing policies like ObamaCare out of the way of American workers,” Priebus said in a statement.
Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) pointed to missed legislative opportunities to even further grow the economy they blamed on Republicans bowing to Tea Party pressure.
“House Republicans' relentless obstruction and dysfunction are holding back our growth and threatening hundreds of thousands of American jobs,” Pelosi said.
“Our economy cannot afford more of Republicans' contempt for working families, or their disinterest in creating jobs,” she continued, pointing to GOP refusals to raise the minimum wage, renew emergency unemployment insurance and reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) said the uptick proves that the economic recovery continues moving forward because of Democratic policies implemented during the recession.
“With 262,000 private sector jobs created in June, bringing our unemployment rate down to 6.1%, we can be proud of the work we have done so far to bring our economy back,” he said.
But Boehner argued again that the House has passed dozens of jobs bills and “in order for us to make real progress, the president must do more than criticize.”
“From trade to workplace flexibility, there’s no shortage of common ground where he can push his party’s leaders in the Senate to work with us. Until he provides that leadership, he is simply part of the problem.”
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, argued that more could be done “if we could simply get past the shut-down, do-nothing politics waged in Congress.”
“It’s time for Republicans in Congress to stop playing politics at the expense of American working families and join President Obama’s jobs agenda to build an economy that works for all Americans, not just the wealthiest few.”
The economy added 1.4 million jobs in the first half of this year, the most in any first half since 1999.
In addition, the economy has added nearly 2.5 million job in the past 12 months, the fastest yearly pace since May 2006.
Also, last month was the first time since September 1999 through January 2000 the economy has seen total job growth above 200,000 for five straight months.