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Democrats Take Aim at Boehner’s Prescription to Fix Economy

A trio of leading House Democrats on Tuesday blasted Minority Leader John Boehner’s call earlier in the day for President Barack Obama to fire Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his top economic adviser, Larry Summers.

“I think that they should stay,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) told reporters during a conference call. “At this point in time, you don’t want to send uncertain signals.”

Speaking earlier in Cleveland in what Republicans billed as a major economic speech, Boehner — who is campaigning to become the next Speaker — challenged Obama to launch the administrative shake-up, extend the Bush-era tax cuts and commit to an “aggressive spending reduction program.”

Van Hollen, Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin (D-Mich.) and Small Business Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) blasted Boehner’s remarks as misguided and politically motivated. “Instead of talking about the resignations of members of the administration,” Levin said, Boehner should “be issuing a clarion call” for GOP lawmakers, particularly Senators, to help pass legislation helping small businesses.

“Instead of shouting for the resignation of somebody, they should get out of the door and help us pass legislation,” Levin said.

In a preview of the messaging war over taxes and the economy that is likely to rage this fall when Members return from the August recess, Van Hollen accused Boehner of championing “fiscally reckless policies that will destabilize the economy and kill the nascent job creation that is going on now,” adding that “the Boehner plan is another flashback to the Bush economic policies that got us in this mess in the first place.”

By contrast, Van Hollen detailed Democrats’ support for numerous legislative provisions designed to help small businesses, which he said Democrats have “been working on since day one.” He specifically highlighted the efforts of a number of freshman and sophomore Members in competitive races, including first-term Florida Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, who faces a challenge from commercial real estate agent Paul Partyka in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. Democratic leaders have encouraged their rank-and-file Members to spend this week talking about their efforts to aid small businesses. Van Hollen said several of the small-business provisions of last year’s stimulus law, helped stop “a tremendous downward spiral” and stabilize the economy.

When Congress returns in September, Levin said, he is “cautiously optimistic” that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will be able to garner support from a handful of Republicans and pass a small-business lending bill that has been stalled in that chamber. He said discussions are ongoing between House and Senate Democratic leaders about which chamber will move first to take up an extension of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts but that it is “likely the Senate will go first.” Levin said both chambers are waiting for information from the Joint Committee on Taxation before making a final determination.

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