Making the case for re-election in 2012, Vice President Joseph Biden urged Congress to pass elements of the president’s jobs package and left the door open on a possible presidential run in 2016.
“I’m not closing anything,” he said today on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “My one focus now is getting the president re-elected. That is the focus. And I’ll make up my mind on that later. I’m in probably the best shape I’ve been in my life. I’m doing pretty well. I’m enjoying what I’m doing. And as long as I do, I’m going to continue to do it. And we’ll find out, you know, [but] let’s get the president re-elected.”
He said the president’s jobs package “is not just about individual jobs, it’s about getting the economy going,” adding: “Nineteen months in a row we have created private sector jobs. Public sector jobs are down by almost a half a million.”
The Senate rejected a provision from President Barack Obama’s $447 billion jobs package last week, having blocked the entire package the week before. The provision would have provided $35 billion to help keep about 400,000 teachers and first responders on the job. It would have been paid for by a 0.5 percent tax on those making more than $1 million a year.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to hold a vote on another provision of Obama’s jobs bill the week of Oct. 31, when the Senate returns from a weeklong recess. The proposal would provide $60 billion to help the nation upgrade its aging infrastructure. That bill would be paid for with a 0.7 percent tax on millionaires.
“The vast majority of the respected, independent validators out there say that if we pass this jobs bill, the [gross domestic product] will grow by 2 percent,” Biden said, referring to the president’s overall legislation.
The jobs package is part of Democrats’ re-election strategy of focusing on overcoming Republican obstructionism and passing legislation to boost the economy, Biden said.
“If we continue to do what we are doing, it will continue to get better,” he added. “That is why it is so important that this jobs bill be passed.”
Biden singled out Republican tea party lawmakers in the House, who he believes are hurting the prospects for economic revival.
“Things were moving, and they were even moving relatively well this last spring until we got downgraded because these guys played roulette with ‘Are we going to make a deal dealing with the debt?’” Biden said, alluding to the fight over raising the nation’s debt ceiling. The prolonged negotiations to strike a deal to raise the debt limit and cut the deficit resulted in the downgrade of America’s credit rating for the first time in its history.
“We could have had a much more significant debt reduction package, but the Republican leadership could not sell it to this new Republican Party,” he added. “This is a not your normal Republican Party — it doesn’t mean it’s good or bad. It’s a different Republican Party in the House of Representatives … with a very different view than mainstream Republicans have had going into this.
“And until we get a Republican Party, it’s going to be hard to figure out who can we compromise with,” Biden said. “We’re prepared to compromise.”
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t think compromise is the issue. The Kentucky Republican, who also appeared on “State of the Union,” said he believes that Democratic policies have not worked and that their efforts in Congress are more designed to win re-election rather than help the economy.
“I approve of firefighters and police,” McConnell said when discussing the $35 billion teachers and first responders bill. “The question is whether the federal government ought to be raising taxes on 300,000 small businesses in order to send money down to bail out states for whom firefighters and police work. They are local and state employees.
“The question is whether the federal government can afford to be bailing out states. I think the answer is no,” he added.
“The only thing bipartisan about these proposals has been the opposition to them,” McConnell said, referring to the three members of the Senate Democratic Conference who voted against the teachers bill with Republicans. “We are not going to be able to get this economy growing by continuing to shower money on the public sector. Unemployment among public sector workers in America is one-half what is for the private sector.”
McConnell said he believes that the Democrats’ jobs proposals are meant to score political points.
“These bills are designed on purpose not to pass,” he said, adding that the offsets would hurt small businesses and, by extension, the economy.
“Four out of five of these so-called millionaires are business owners; it’s over 300,000 small businesses in our country that hire people,” he said. “I don’t think the American people think that raising taxes on small business in the middle of the economic situation we find ourselves in is a particularly good idea.”
Biden argued that Democratic policies, particularly the 2009 stimulus package, have helped save jobs. Republicans say the stimulus did not keep the unemployment rate below 8 percent as promised.
“No one can look you in the eye and tell you that the recovery act and that stimulus did not create jobs and did not do very good things for the economy,” Biden said. “The problem was that in the beginning the economists said that in fact we wouldn’t go above 8 percent [unemployment] because they did not know until this last quarter that the economy shrunk in the last term of the [George W. Bush] administration almost 9 percent. Everybody thought it was more like 5 1/2 percent.
“The point was that we were all operating off of what the blue chips were looking at, and the numbers were wrong,” he added. “But the fact is if we hadn’t had that stimulus, we would be in a position now where we would be in a double-dip recession some time ago.”