Mitt Romney and Republicans are trumpeting the White House’s inactive Jobs Council as evidence the president is sidestepping work on the economy in favor of campaigning.
The panel of CEOs and some union officials has not met with the president for six months, after it issued a divided set of policy recommendations (labor participants thought it skewed too much toward corporate tax breaks and deregulation) in January.
“There’s no specific reason, except the president has obviously got a lot on his plate, but he continues to solicit and receive advice from numerous folks outside the administration about the economy about ideas that he can act on with Congress or administratively to help the economy grow and help create jobs,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday. He noted that most of the council’s recommendations for tax breaks and infrastructure investments that could boost the economy have either been implemented by the administration or, in most cases, blocked by Republicans in Congress.
Romney and other GOP leaders have pounced on the “a lot on his plate” line, using it to draw a beeline to an attack they’ve been using for months: Obama’s record number of campaign fundraisers.
“The White House was asked why that was, and they said, well, the president has a lot on his plate,” Romney said in a speech in Roxbury, Mass., on Thursday. “So we take a look at his schedule and over the last six months, he has done 106 fundraisers. And so I think you learn something about the president’s priorities: The job he’s interested in protecting is his own.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters Thursday that Obama “doesn’t even have time to meet with his own jobs council. He’s just out there campaigning every day and looking for somebody else to blame.”
The Obama campaign says the jobs council’s recommendations are closer to the White House’s agenda than Romney’s, most notably its endorsement of infrastructure investments that the president has made a centerpiece of his platform.
“It’s ironic that Mitt Romney is calling for additional meetings of the Jobs Council when he opposes the American Jobs Act, which incorporates their ideas,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement. “The plan could put up to a million people back to work — including teachers, firefighters, cops, construction workers and veterans — help small businesses create jobs right now and encourage companies to bring jobs back to America. Instead of calling for more meetings, Mitt Romney should call on congressional Republicans to stop their obstruction and pass important legislation that will put more Americans back to work.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.