On Friday released numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) peg the national unemployment rate at 9.0 percent for the month of October—down slightly from September’s 9.1 percent rate—with the private sector adding 104,000 new jobs.
However, the nation’s job growth continues to be hampered by shrinking state and local governments, which cut 24,000 jobs in the month of October, for a net growth of 80,000 jobs.
The report from the BLS paints a picture of a national economy that is largely frozen in place. As a result, over the weekend both Democrats and Republicans in Washington seized on the opportunity to promote their respective jobs plans, while blaming each other for Congress’s apparent paralysis on the issue of jobs.
Substituting for President Obama as he flew back from the G-20 summit in France, Vice President Joe Biden used the White House’s weekly address to once again tout the administration’s $447 billion American Jobs Act, while condemning congressional Republicans for obstructing passage of the bill.
“These are all programs that the Republicans in the past have supported, but once again, every Republican voted no—blocking the majority will to put these folks back to work,” said Biden, referring to state- and local-level public-sector workers such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters whose jobs the American Jobs Act aims to protect.
The American Jobs Act was first put to a procedural vote Oct. 11 in the Senate, where it failed to receive the required 60 votes in order to proceed. Since then, the White House and Senate Democrats have decided to break up the bill into its constituent parts, which would then be voted on separately.
Both of the resulting bills—the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act of 2011, S. 1723 and Rebuild America Jobs Act, S. 1769—have since failed in procedural votes in the Senate.
Biden also advertised recent executive orders aimed at relieving student loan debt and helping underwater homeowners refinance their homes.
“We can’t wait for the Congress to start acting responsibly, and that’s why the president has used his executive power to announce that hundreds of thousands of people will be able to refinance their homes from 6 percent interest rates to 4 percent, saving them an average of $2,000 a year,” said Biden.
“That’s why the president announced that, beginning next year, no student will have to pay back more than 10 percent of their discretionary income toward their student debt,” Biden added.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), meanwhile, appeared on the Sunday morning talk show circuit. In an interview with Christiane Amanpour on ABC’s “This Week,” Boehner highlighted the fact that 22 jobs-related bills that have passed in the House of Representatives are currently stuck in the Senate.
“We’ve passed 22 bills, all with bipartisan support, that would help reduce barriers to job growth. They all remain in the United States Senate. You’re going to see the House move, I think, before the end of the year on an infrastructure bill,” said Boehner.
The majority of these bills are deregulation measures, which have garnered some Democratic support in the House, but Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill are skeptical of their ability to create jobs.
The bills include measures that mandate an expansion of offshore drilling and a faster permitting process, while other bills target recent or upcoming EPA regulations and the FCC’s net neutrality rules.
House Republicans have also touted the passage of a bill last Thursday that would repeal the requirement that government at federal, state, and local levels withhold 3 percent of payments to contractors. The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in a 405 to 16 vote.