War of Words: Boehner, Biden Spar Over Economic Policies

House minority leader calls on president to fire his economic team.

August 24, 2010, 10:31 AM

Aug. 24, 2010— -- The war of words on the economy escalated today as Vice President Joe Biden dueled with House Minority Leader John Boehner, who earlier today called for the resignation of President Obama's economic team.

It's "very constructive advice and we thank the leader for that," Biden said sarcastically to muted laughter. "For eight years before we arrived in the West Wing, Mr. Boehner and his party ran economy and the middle class literally into the ground."

"Mr. Boehner is nostalgic for those good old days, but the American people are not. They don't want to go back. They want to move forward, and so folks, I'm still waiting for what it is that they are for," Biden said today in a speech to give an update on the Economic Recovery Act.

Speaking in Cleveland earlier today, Boehner berated the "president's job-killing agenda," and called on him to veto an energy bill, the controversial "card check" legislation -- a union-favored bill that Obama has vowed to fight for -- and support the repeal of the health care bill that was signed into law in March.

House Republican attempts at repealing the health care law have been largely unsuccesful.

"This spring, when power changed hands in Britain -- another country racked by red ink -- one Treasury minister left a note for his successor and the note said, 'I am afraid to tell you there is no money left,'" Boehner said. "Well, I am not afraid to tell you there is no money left, we're broke!"

The Ohio Republican pointed to the resignation of Christina Romer as chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, who announced her decision to step down shortly after Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, resigned.

"We have been told that the president's economic team is 'exhausted' -- already, his budget director and his chief economist have moved on or are about to. Clearly, they see the writing on the wall, and the president should too," Boehner said. "President 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."

Seizing on the large budget deficit accumulated during the Bush administration, Biden today accused Boehner of returning to the policies that led to the crisis "from which we are still digging out."

"They gave free rein to special interests to write their own rules at the expense of everyone else, not just the middle class," Biden said.

The top Republican in the House earlier blasted the Obama administration for raising taxes on small businesses and Americans, a charge that Biden denied. Instead, he pointed the finger at Republicans for wanting to extend tax cuts to "Wall Street" and not the "Main Street."

"We've seen this movie before," the vice president said. "And we know how it ends. The American people deserve something different and something better."

The war of words come as a new Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday shows that Americans are increasingly concerned about jobs and the economy, but want tax cuts extended.

Forty-nine percent of those polled said they wanted to see the Bush tax cuts extended for all Americans, while 31 percent said they should expire for people whose salary is above $200,000. More than half thought that reducing the budget deficit was a bigger priority than lowering taxes.

Seventy-two percent of people polled said they were very worried about unemployment and 67 percent said they were very concerned about government spending, the Reuters/Ipsos poll found. Only 45 percent approved of the president's performance, according to the poll and his disapproval rating jumped to 52 percent. The president's approval rating was less than 50 percent in August.

Boehner vs. White House on Economy

Boehner, who hopes to become majority leader if Republicans gain back control in the House this November, spoke openly about his ambitions as Speaker of the House.

"I've said that if I were fortunate enough to be Speaker of the House, I would run the House differently," Boehner said. "And I don't just mean differently than the way Democrats are running it now. I mean differently than it's been run in the past under Democrats or Republicans. That means challenging the old ways in Washington, getting to the bottom of what drives people crazy, and then fixing it once and for all."

Amid a weak economy, uncertainty about job growth and a divided public opinion towards the two parties, both Republicans and Democrats face tough prospects in November's mid-term elections.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 46 percent of registered U.S. voters would likely vote for a Republican candidate, while 45 percent said they would vote for a Democrat.

Biden today confidently dismissed the idea that the GOP might regain majority in the House this fall.

"I tell you, they will not, they won't take control," the vice president said.

This is not the first time Boehner and the White House have sparred over economic issues. Most recently in June, Democrats and the White House seized on Boehner's comments to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the financial regulatory reform bill was akin to "killing an ant with a nuclear weapon."

Obama questioned whether Boehner was "out of touch" with Americans' economic situation.

"This is the same financial crisis that led to the loss of nearly eight million jobs; same crisis that cost people their homes, their life savings," the president said at an event in Racine, Wis. "He can't be that out of touch with the struggles of American families. And if he is, then he's got to come here to Racine and ask people what they think."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events