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The Hill: House GOP: Reagan recovery was stronger than Obama recovery

By Russell Berman

House Republicans offered a reality check to Democrats crowing over a monthly jobs report that vastly exceeded expectations: The Obama recovery might finally be gaining steam, but it’s nothing like the Reagan recovery.

“While we welcome the positive news today, I think our point is very simple: We can do better,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters at a morning press conference timed to respond to the latest employment numbers.

 The monthly Labor Department report showed a net gain of 243,000 jobs in January, with the unemployment rate falling to 8.3 percent, the lowest in three years.

 The press conference provided a glimpse of an awkward line Republicans must toe in responding to positive jobs numbers that could help the president’s reelection chances. While acknowledging the good news, they made no attempt to take credit for job creation that has taken place since they assumed the House majority. Instead, the GOP leaders chose to blame Obama administration policies for impeding a recovery that they argued could have kicked into gear much sooner.

The House Republicans broadly downplayed the report, with Boehner referring to the boost in employment as “flickers of hope in our recovery.”

And the Speaker, under questioning from reporters, trotted out a line he has used in response to nearly every monthly unemployment report, whether it showed strong or weak job creation. 

“The American people are still asking the question, ‘Where are the jobs?’ ” Boehner said. “And while the unemployment rate is down slightly, and a few more Americans are at work, we still have millions of Americans that are looking for work.”

Several members compared the current economic recovery unfavorably to the rebound from recession during the Reagan administration. In January 1984, as Reagan was preparing to run for reelection, the unemployment rate fell to 8 percent, marking an even more marked decline from a jobless rate of 10.4 percent a year earlier.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said Reagan inherited a “more difficult, deeper recession” than Obama, who has repeatedly called the economic collapse he inherited the most serious since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

McMorris Rodgers and other Republicans recalled the Obama administration’s assertion that the unemployment rate would not exceed 8 percent if Congress passed the stimulus package in early 2009.

“Well, we know that this is the 36th month in a row that 8 percent has been exceeded, and yet it didn’t have to be this way,” she said.

A freshman lawmaker, Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), put it more bluntly: “The president’s team is going to trot out their happy faces today, but the American people are going to say, ‘Not so fast.’ First of all, we still feel worse than we did four years ago.”

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