Rep. Huizenga: Dissolving Jobs Council ‘Shocking’

Thursday, 31 Jan 2013 04:11 PM

By David Yonkman, Newsmax Washington Correspondent

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President Barack Obama will let his jobs council expire this week, winding down one source of input from the business community even as unemployment remains stubbornly high, a move U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga tells Newsmax is “shocking.”

“It's shocking the White House is dissolving the President's 'Jobs Council,' whose members were actually private sector job creators, while millions of Americans remain out of work,” said the Michigan Republican, who serves on the House Financial Services Committee.

"This Administration claims economic growth and job creation is their top priority yet the unemployment rate is the same as when President Obama took office.”

A provision in Obama's executive order establishing the council says it sunsets on Thursday. A White House official said the president does not plan to extend it.

When Obama in January 2011 formed his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, unemployment was hovering above 9 percent. Two years later, more than 12 million people in the U.S. are out of work. The unemployment rate has improved to 7.8 percent, but both parties agree that's still too high.

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri was also surprised by the development.

“Unbelievable,” Blunt said. “Our nation’s economy shrank during the last quarter of 2012 for the first time since the recession ended, national unemployment is still hovering near 8 percent, and more than 12 million Americans are still looking for work. Yet President Obama is giving up on his Jobs Council after it only met four times since 2011 – the most recent of which was almost a year ago.”

Officials said the president always intended for the council to fulfill its mission and then wind down, and said that Obama would continue to actively engage and seek input from business leaders about ways to accelerate job-creation and economic growth. Among the steps Obama plans to pursue are expedited permits for infrastructure projects, the White House said.

Even before it was clear whether Obama would renew the jobs council, Republicans seized on its likely expiration as evidence the president has devoted insufficient attention to creating jobs, which polling shows remains a top priority for Americans. The Republican National Committee dubbed it part of "the failed Obama record," while the House Republicans' campaign committee, in an online petition, accused Obama of laying off his own jobs council.

Adding to the concern about the job market's continued vulnerability, the Commerce Department said Wednesday that the U.S. economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.1 percent from October through December of last year, the first quarterly drop since 2009.

Obama met with the council only a handful of times. During the last meeting, in February 2012, the president and the council highlighted an engineering education initiative alongside school deans.

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