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House Dems Tearing at Obama Over Unemployment

The nation’s unemployment picture might be improving, but the country remains in an enormous jobs hole that will take years to scratch out of. And some House Democrats are wondering why the White House isn’t making the issue its top priority. Roll Call reports:

Congressional Democrats started the year believing that once health care reform passed, they would quickly pivot to an agenda flush with job creation bills they could tout back home in the lead-up to the midterm elections. But action on that front is being drowned out by other issues — the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the botched terrorist attack in New York City, financial reform, climate change, immigration reform — and House Democrats are accusing Obama of failing to throw his muscle behind efforts to spur significant job growth.

“We were told we would focus like a laser after December. Well, we haven’t exactly been focused like a laser on jobs and I have seen no movement, particularly on the part of the Obama administration, on the transportation bill,” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said.

Other Democrats are criticizing the speed with which the administration is spending the money allocated in last year’s $787 billion bill, Roll Call notes.

Others wondered if Obama is letting his own re-election hopes get in the way of investing stimulus dollars sooner. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) accused the president of slow-walking stimulus investments until 2011, the year before he runs for re-election, in an effort to look effective during his campaign.

“They want to spend it in 2011, because 2012 is there. Well hell, we want to spend it right now because we are in the bubble. … We’ve got $400 billion in that stimulus money out there and we could do something,” Hastings said.

The comments arrive just a few days after the Labor Department reported that the economy created 290,000 new jobs last month — a vast majority of them in the private sector. That’s good news for an economy that had shed about 600,000 a year earlier. But, as the Economic Policy Institute was quick to note, the country is still 10.7 million jobs behind where it should be. To make up the difference, the economy will have to add 325,000 jobs each month for the next four years. That’s a long time to wait for folks whose unemployment benefits will expire after two.

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