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New York Times: House Republicans Find Gray Lining in Brighter Jobs Report

 By JONATHAN WEISMAN


House Republicans have their message on the economy, and they are sticking to it.

Friday’s better-than-expected jobs report, with 243,000 new payroll positions added in January and another decline in the unemployment rate, may have sent stock prices higher, but Republicans, speaking at a news conference on Friday, found the dark gray lining in the silver cloud.

“Today is an indication of another failure of this president’s policies, 36 months in a row of 8 percent-plus unemployment,” lamented Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas, chairman of the House Republican Conference.

“The president’s team is gonna trot out their happy faces today,” Representative Bill Flores of Texas, warned. “But the American people are gonna say, ‘not so fast.’”

And Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington compared the current recovery with the recovery of the early 1980s recession under President Ronald Reagan, a party icon. She asserted that the Reagan recession was deeper and worse (a debatable assertion given the sudden and severe collapse in 2008).

Given the improving economy, Republicans had a choice. They could stick with their message or they could follow what Congressional Republicans in 1996 did — grabbing some of the credit. The latter choice may well help President Obama’s re-election as it helped that of President Bill Clinton, but it could also help incumbent Republicans with their own difficult re-election campaigns.
Some veteran Republicans want their party to take a more positive spin and talk up their successes like holding down spending, passing free trade agreements and putting deficit control at the top of the political agenda.

“Our problem is our own people cannibalizing their own success because it’s not as good as they wanted,” Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma and a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in an interview this week. “The only criticism I would have of some of the newer members, and some of the senior members, too, is they score points against their own team. They make themselves look good by making everybody else look bad. That’s not particularly helpful.”

After some hesitation Friday, lawmakers at the news conference made clear the choice they made.

“The American people are still asking, ‘Where are the jobs?’” said House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio.

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