By Bernie Becker
Freshman Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.) sharply criticized President Obama Wednesday and accused him of phoning it in on the economy.
Johnson slammed Obama for, among other things, delegating the debt-ceiling talks to his vice president.
“Our president is totally disengaged,” Johnson said. “He sent his vice president to negotiate — what, maybe once a week? Twice a week?”
Johnson’s comments come following a string of worse-than-expected reports on the economy, topped off by Friday’s announcement from the Labor Department that the economy created a disappointing 54,000 jobs in May.
They also come a day before Vice President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of lawmakers are scheduled to convene once more to discuss a potential deal to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, something the Treasury Department says needs to be done by Aug. 2.
Participants on both sides of the aisle have said progress has been made in those talks. But Johnson said Wednesday that the president’s absence from those talks showed he was out of touch, adding that business owners would be working “16,17, 18 hours a day” if their companies were in similar shape to the economy.
For his part, the president on Tuesday repeated his assertions that the economy had hit some “headwinds” but was on the right track as a whole.
“The overall trend that we’ve seen over the last 15 months — 2 million — over 2 million jobs created over the past 15 months,” Obama said at a news conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. “You know, a rebounding of the manufacturing sector in the United States that’s exemplified by the recovery of the Big Three automakers here — all indicates that we have set a path that will lead us to long-term economic growth.”
As for the debt ceiling, Republicans have indicated they want any deal to have a larger amount in spending cuts than the increase in the ceiling – with some in the GOP also saying they would back short-term increases if the talks led by Biden are unable to agree to enough cuts.
Republican lawmakers have also steadfastly opposed the use of any new tax revenue to eat into deficits.