As the House of Representatives prepares to conclude its legislative business this week and bolt Washington for a six-week recess ahead of the election Nov. 6, Republicans deflected concerns about Mitt Romney's campaign today, launching a counterattack against President Obama with a barrage of complaints about the president's "failure to lead" during the past two years of divided Congress.
Addressing reporters following a conference meeting that featured a speech by GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, House Speaker John Boehner did not directly address videos released on the internet earlier this week that show Romney telling a Florida fundraiser last May that 47 percent of the country's voting population thinks of themselves as victims and are dependent on the government.
"Listen, this election is about jobs. We've said it for 20 months and it hasn't changed," Boehner, R-Ohio, began when asked about the videos. "Forty-three consecutive months where our unemployment is above 8 percent, and everybody's going to try to make this election about everything other than what it is. The American people are asking the question, 'Where are the jobs,' and so the focus is on jobs."
"The president's economic policies have failed, and the American people know it," he continued. "Mitt Romney has a background where he's created jobs, he's got a background where he understands what government can do to destroy jobs, and he has a plan to put Americans back to work. And that's what this election's going to be about."
Pressed whether he agrees with the sentiment of the GOP presidential nominee's comments considering his own humble upbringing, Boehner conceded that "both campaigns on both sides" will have moments "that get off the message."
"Listen, the election is about jobs. It's not about anything else. I've had family members who have lost their jobs in this downturn. Two of my brothers, two of my brother-in-laws. I know what's happening out there and I know how difficult this economy is," he said. "The message is let's stay focused on jobs because that's what the American people want us to stay focused on."
Rep. Kevin Brady, the vice chairman of the Joint Economic committee, recalled a recent interview where President Obama gave himself an incomplete grade on his economic leadership.
"I don't know what curve he was grading himself on, but the truth is, he's dead last," Brady said. "This president has failed the economic leadership. It is not an incomplete. It's an F."
Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., criticized the president for "either blaming others or avoiding challenging problems that face our nation," and she recalled bipartisan cooperation that Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan managed during their own presidencies and divided Congress.
"The president is the leader of his party and yet he refuses to do anything about the overwhelming dysfunction of the Democrat-led Senate. He's too busy blaming us Republicans for the failing economy," Black said. "Divided government is clearly not an excuse for President Obama's failure to lead, and in the absence of strong presidential leadership America is struggling. Today more than ever, we need a president who is not only willing but able to lead our country."
With recent polling in many battleground states showing a boost for Obama, Boehner insisted that the race is "far from over" and pointed to a Gallup poll that showed just a one-point lead for the president.
"Think about this as a card game," Boehner said. "The president has played his cards. His economy policies have failed, his foreign policy has failed, [and] his energy policy has failed. His cards are played. Mitt Romney has a plan to get our economy back on track."