Saying Washington is hampered by “endless spending sprees, entangled tax structures and bureaucracy run amok,” the top House Republican on Tuesday demanded President Obama fire his entire economic team and immediately submit a plan to cut spending to pre-stimulus 2008 levels.
“We’ve tried 19 months of government as community organizer. It hasn’t worked. Our fresh start needs to begin now,” Rep. John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, told the City Club of Cleveland in a broad speech laying out the economic argument House Republicans will take to voters this November.
He said the president must break with the economic team that, 19 months into his tenure, has failed to lower the unemployment rate — singling out Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and Lawrence H. Summers, director of the White House National Economic Council.
Mr. Boehner even called on the president to break with his own party and instead promise to block much of Democrats’ agenda — including a global warming bill and support for labor unions that Mr. Obama has backed throughout the first 19 months of his tenure.
“President Obama should announce that he will veto any job-killing bills sent to his desk by a lame-duck Congress — including ‘card check,’ a national energy tax, and any other tax increases on families and small businesses,” Mr. Boehner said.
Republicans hope, and Democrats fear, that November’s elections are shaping up as a referendum on the state of the economy and whether Democrats, who control both the White House and Congress, have been able to set things on the right foot.
But with unemployment at 9.5 percent and independent analysts saying it will average 9 percent all through 2011, Democrats are having a tough time of it.
Mr. Obama, on the campaign trail, argues that his $862 billion stimulus spending program has worked and that the economy would be in worse shape without it.
He also says Republicans, who he said left the economy and the federal budget in such bad shape, should not be given control again. He repeatedly uses a driving metaphor, comparing Republicans to wild drivers who ran the economic car off the road under President George W. Bush, and “now they’re asking for the keys back.”
Mr. Boehner seemed to acknowledge Republicans have been part of the problem as he called for running Washington “differently than both Democrats and Republicans have.”
As one example, he pointed to the popular legislation known on Capitol Hill and the “tax extenders” — a package of dozens of tax breaks lawmakers pass each year, though Mr. Boehner said some of them “are really just poorly disguised spending programs that expand the role of government in the lives of individuals and employers.”
On Monday, trying to rebut Mr. Boehner’s speech even before he delivered it, Democrats held a conference call with reporters to argue the top Republican wouldn’t offer any new solutions.
“John Boehner and the Republican leadership wouldn’t know a new idea if they tripped over it,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida Democrat and vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. “I don’t really expect to hear anything new. It’s more of the same awful policies that got us into this mess in the first place.”