In every speech, in every op-ed, at every press conference, in every interview, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) always stresses the same talking point: House Republicans have passed a bunch of “jobs bills,” which those rascally Senate Democrats have ignored.
When Boehner wrote an op-ed defending his prospective anti-Obama lawsuit, he stuck to the script:
“The House has passed more than 40 jobs bills that would help. But Washington Democrats, led by the President, just ignore them.”
When Politico published a recent piece on Congress’ inaction on the economy, the Speaker wrote a letter to the editor yesterday responding to the charge:
“The House is listening to the American people and passing jobs bill after jobs bill. There is a list of about 40 on Speaker.gov.”
I’m curious if Boehner has actually looked at the list. He should – it doesn’t say what he thinks it says.
Last fall, the Speaker pushed a similar talking point, in reference to a separate list, but Boehner and his team have since come up with a more comprehensive, color-coded list, which is worth appreciating in detail because it speaks volumes about Republican priorities and definitions.
Right off the bat, note that there are, in fact, 46 measures on the list of “jobs bills” already approved by the House. But the list includes six bills that have either been signed into law or endorsed by President Obama. When Boehner insisted that “Washington Democrats” have “ignored” all of the bills on the list, that wasn’t entirely true.
But of the remaining 40 “jobs bills” on the list, very few can credibly be described as actual jobs bills.
For example, the first 14 bills on the list of 40 – more than a third of the overall list – are giveaways to the oil and gas industries. The bills expand drilling, expand fracking, expand pipelines, expand mining, expands coal-ash projects, and “protect” coal plants. How many jobs would this collection of energy bills actually create? The heralded list from the Speaker’s office didn’t say, but the total would likely be pretty modest.
Boehner can prove me wrong by getting an independent score on the collection of bills, but I have a hunch if all of these bills were combined into one package, they still wouldn’t produce as many jobs as extended unemployment benefits. Besides, the point of these bills is to help polluters, ExxonMobil, and energy companies. We can debate such efforts on the merits, but to consider every giveaway to Big OIl a “jobs bill” is hard to take seriously.
OK, but that’s 14 out of 40. What about the rest of the list? Several of the “jobs bills” attack the Affordable Care Act, and there’s simply no evidence that taking health care benefits away from millions of American families will create jobs.
The list of “jobs bills” includes the Farm Bill. The list of “jobs bills” includes Paul Ryan’s budget blueprint. The list of “jobs bills” includes a pointless measure intended to stop President Obama from allowing state experimentation with welfare reform.
The list of “jobs bills” includes a measure to increase federal spending “transparency.” The list of “jobs bills” includes a framework on cybersecurity.
I hate to break this to Speaker Boehner, but a lot of these measures aren’t what any sensible person would call a proper “jobs bill.” They may or may not have merit on their own, and they may or may not require some modicum of new hiring, but legitimate legislative efforts to create lots of jobs – such as the American Jobs Act, unveiled in 2011 and killed by congressional Republicans soon after – aim higher.
Indeed, independent analysts determined the American Jobs Act would have created over 1 million U.S. jobs in just one year. Can the same be said for Boehner’s misleading list of 40? Common sense suggests otherwise, though we can’t say for sure since the Speaker’s office hasn’t sought an independent analysis.
What we’re left with is a rather sad attempt at deception. Boehner keeps talking about “passing jobs bill after jobs bill,” hoping the public will hear the claim and conclude that House Republicans have actually done real work over the last couple of years. The Speaker probably assumes that the vast majority of the public won’t actually look too closely at the touted list.
It is, in other words, a rather cynical game. House Republicans have decided the definition of a “jobs bill” is “any bill House Republicans like.”
The reality, shallow talking points notwithstanding, is that this is the least productive Congress on record, and the focus on the economy has been practically non-existent since Republicans took over the House in January 2011. Boehner may enjoy asking where the jobs are, but if his vaunted list is any indication, his conference’s priorities lie elsewhere.