Blame Game: Dems and GOP Dispute Fault Over Unemployment

A substantial pack of fed-up House Democrats assembled at the Capitol today to rip the GOP for a failure to create jobs since seizing the House majority exactly one year ago. But Republicans continue to maintain that it's actually Senate Democrats who have blocked legislation that would create a better economic environment for job creation.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, flanked by more than 25 of her Democratic colleagues, told reporters that over the past year, "we have seen no major jobs agenda put forward," and she complained that Republicans are not at the Capitol this week to conduct the people's business.

"We can't wait. We have important work to do. One year in office. No significant jobs bill," Pelosi, D-Calif., said. "Where are they? I don't know. Where should they be? Right here in this Capitol, getting to work on this conference committee, addressing the concerns of the American people to create jobs to strengthen the middle class."

Among the Democrats joining Pelosi were her appointees to conference committee negotiations on a long-term solution to a package of expiring economic initiatives, like the payroll tax credit and unemployment insurance, which are set to run out at the end of February.

Once those conference negotiations begin, Democrats hinted today that they will once again pursue a surtax on millionaires in order to offset the costs of the long-term extension - an issue that faced stiff resistance from Congressional Republicans and derailed four votes in the Senate on yearlong extensions.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, one of the Democrats picked by Pelosi to negotiate at conference, would not explicitly declare that Democrats are targeting the surtax, but he said it is an option worthy of consideration.

"In terms of how we pay for things, and to what extend the costs need to be covered, that's going to be a discussion that we all have…. From [the Democrats'] perspective, we think that we should look at all those possibilities [including the millionaire surtax]," Van Hollen, D-Md., said. "We think that the way to grow the economy is to empower the middle class and middle-income Americans."

While Democrats decried the Republican agenda for not pursuing legislation that would aid job creation, a spokesman for Boehner, however, contended that jobs continue to be the speaker's top priority. The aide also discounted the Democrats' contention that Republicans have not passed any jobs bills.

"As House Democratic Leaders parrot a talking point that an independent fact-checker called a 'pants on fire' lie, House Republicans are focused on the American peoples' top priority: jobs," said Michael Steel, press secretary to the speaker. "House Democratic Leaders know that, since they praised House-passed jobs bills last year.  Amnesia is not a jobs plan."

Republicans mention a veterans jobs bill and the three free-trade agreements as examples of jobs legislation that was successfully passed through both chambers of the bitterly divided Congress and signed by the president. Republicans also point to 27 other jobs bills that passed through the House but are awaiting action in the U.S. Senate.

"I know they're saying, 'Well, we passed one piece of the president's jobs bill, the veterans piece.' Of course they did, of course they did," Pelosi decried. "The president offered American Jobs Act, very popular among the public. They passed one piece of it."

Throughout 2011, Democrats and Republicans disagreed ideologically about how best to cut spending, reduce the deficit and create jobs. Rep. John Larson, the Democratic Caucus chairman, calculated that "job creation equals deficit reduction" and "there is a great opportunity" to create jobs if Congress would just pass the president's jobs package.

"Some have said that our colleagues are just pure obstructionists. That they want to see this economy continue at a slow pace so that it will impact the race of the president of the United States," Larson, D-Conn., said. "What may in fact be impacting our colleagues on the other side of the aisle is that they have prosopagnosia."

Larson proceeded to explain the word, which Merriam-Webster defines as "a form of visual agnosia characterized by an inability to recognize faces."

"It's a blindness that they have. It's a blindness that also works in a way that you don't recognize people's voices," Larson said as his voice grew louder. "How else can you not hear the plea of 14 million Americans that are out of work who need to be put back to work?!"

The House of Representatives is scheduled to return to legislative business on Jan. 17 while the Senate plans to return Jan. 23.