White House turns the screws on Congress over 9 percent approval

A number of White House officials, sensing momentum on their side, blasted Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail, mocking recent measures and Congress's 9 percent approval rating.

Officials believe Obama's tour around the country to promote his jobs bill is paying dividends, but they continue to acknowledge the president has a tough battle ahead as he works to improve the economy and win reelection.

"We have a tough economy," one official said. "The sun comes up in the morning, the sky is blue, the grass is green. We've got a tough economy. We're going to have a tough election. That's just the deal."


But the official said that the choice next November will come down to "who do you trust" to fix the economy: Obama or someone like Mitt Romney who "represents everything the American people hate about the economy."

"We believe a shade over 50 percent of them will answer 'the president,'" the official said.

The official said that voters will have a "gut decision" to make next November between Obama and the Republican nominee.

"Someone like Mitt Romney would give himself a $200,000 tax cut, and he would give the bill to 33 seniors," the official said.

Administration officials have upped the offensive against Republicans on Capitol Hill as well, warning them that inaction on Obama's jobs plan will cost them control of the House next year.

"They're skating on incredibly thin ice right now," one official said. "I assume they're getting increasingly concerned about their political standing."

White House officials said they believe there is a "surging sense out there among voters" that millionaires and billionaires should be paying more taxes, and they see Obama as the only person in Washington with a plan that would create jobs in the short term. 

"The only stumbling block," an official said, is Republicans refusal to budge on revenue. That marks a big change from earlier this year and the summer when Obama joined Republicans in making deficit reduction a priority.

"The terms of the debate have completely shifted," the official said.

And the White House believes that Republicans will pay a price if they continue to block aspects of Obama's jobs plan, especially the employer payroll tax cut.

Failure to pass an extension of that cut, an official said, would be a "devastating tax increase on the middle class."

White House officials seem buoyed both by Congress's low approval ratings and polls that show broad and growing support for Obama's policies among independents, Democrats and Republicans.

One top official said it is a "fascinating dynamic" that more Republicans in the country support what Obama is trying to do with his jobs act, but it is being blocked by Republicans in Congress.

"If we could just do some business with some common-sense Republicans out in the country," the official said. 

The official said Obama will "continue the drum beat" of unveiling executive actions designed to help the economy while Congress deliberates. 

Obama and Democrats on Capitol Hill are increasingly referring to the Congress as “Republican” even though their party controls one-half of the unpopular institution.

White House press secretary Jay Carney responded to a criticism from House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE (R-Ohio) that Obama's executive actions might run BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE-has-great-concerns-obama-exceeding-constitutional-authority-with-new-loan-rules" mce_href="http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/190219-boehner-has-great-concerns-obama-exceeding-constitutional-authority-with-new-loan-rules">afoul of the Constitution, saying that the Speaker and his party should focus on creating jobs.

"I think yesterday the House, amidst the demand that action be taken on jobs and the economy, you know, bravely went forward and passed legislation or passed a bill that would issue commemorative coins for Baseball Hall of Fame," Carney said.  "It passed overwhelmingly. And now I think they're pretty much done for the week in a couple of hours."

Noting Congress's 9 percent approval rating in a New York Times/CBS News poll, Carney joked that Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan seems to be catching on.

"I know nine is a popular number in the Republican Party, but this can't possibly be what they want," Carney said.

The president's approval rating stands at 43 percent, according to Gallup's tracking poll, and has risen 5 percentage points in the last two weeks.