Pelosi says Congress must create jobs, while giving up hers
As she handed over the House Speaker’s gavel to the other party, Nancy Pelosi pointed out that the shoe was now on the other foot and the new Republican-led Congress would be judged by whether it creates jobs.
The California Democrat, now House minority leader, probably would like her old job back, and setting such a high performance bar for the Republicans now in charge of the House of Representatives might be one way to get it.
Lessons from the November elections are still burning — it was public anger and anxiety about the economy and job losses that partly led to Democrats losing control of the House of Representatives.
“Our most important job is to fight for American jobs … And so Democrats will judge what comes before Congress from either side of the aisle as to whether it creates jobs, strengthens the middle class, and reduces the deficit,” the first woman speaker said as she handed a huge gavel to the new speaker of the House, Republican John Boehner.
Boehner also addressed job concerns. “We gather here today at a time of great challenges. Nearly one in ten of our neighbors are looking for work,” he said. “Hard work and tough decisions will be required of the 112th Congress. No longer can we fall short. No longer can we kick the can down the road. The people voted to end business as usual, and today we begin carrying out their instructions.”
He also didn’t disappoint those watching for his now trademark show of emotion when he dabbed his eyes with a white handkerchief as he waited for Pelosi to hand over the gavel.
Pelosi congratulated Boehner and the new Republican majority several times, and pledged that if they “come forward with solutions that will address these American challenges, you will find us a willing partner.”
But it will be hard for either party, Republican or Democrat, to make a big improvement in the jobless rate anytime soon. Most economists anticipate the U.S. unemployment rate, currently at 9.8 percent, will remain elevated throughout 2011 - half of the House members’ term.
That’s because the monthly rate of job creation is expected to average well below the 200,000 or what would be required to make a significant dent in unemployment after some 8 million U.S. jobs were lost during the financial downturn of 2007-2009.
While Democrats may now ask what the new Republican House majority is doing to get people back to work, Republicans might point out that Democrats still have control of two other key levers of power — the Senate and the White House.
So would an improvement in the jobs picture help the Republicans or the Democrats in congressional elections two years from now?
Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Pelosi yields podium to Boehner), Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Boehner dabs his eyes as Pelosi gets ready to hand over the Speaker’s gavel to him)