House Republican leader John Boehner on Tuesday urged President Barack Obama to support an extension of tax cuts and to fire key economic advisers, arguing that more than a year of "government as community organizer" has failed to revive the economy.
In a speech to the City Club of Cleveland, Boehner said Obama needs to act immediately on several fronts to break what the Republican describes as "ongoing economic uncertainty."
He said the president should work with the GOP to renew soon-to-expire tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush. Congress will tackle the issue when it returns next month.
The Ohio lawmaker also called on Obama to propose aggressive spending cuts and seek the resignations of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; the head of the National Economic Council, Larry Summers, and other members of his economic team.
"Never before has the need for a fresh start in Washington been more pressing," said Boehner, who promised that he would run things differently if Republicans capture control of the House in the fall and he is elected Speaker.
Responding to the criticism, Vice President Joe Biden said Boehner's speech only told voters what the GOP is against, not what the party is for.
Commenting at the White House at the start of a previously scheduled event on stimulus spending, Biden said Obama has proposed extending the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of taxpayers and that to extend it to the wealthiest Americans — as Republicans would like — would only worsen the nation's finances.
"This is not a populist argument," Biden said. Biden said Boehner didn't offer any economic agenda.
"It's merely a list of the things that they think the president should not do," Biden said. "So after all this build-up and hype, all we know is what John Boehner and his Republican colleagues are against. I know what they're against. What I don't know .... I don't know what they're for that's going to change our economic circumstance."
Boehner, one of the president's loudest critics, said U.S. employers are afraid to invest in an economy stalled by the president's economic stimulus package and hamstrung by uncertainty.
"The prospect of higher taxes, stricter rules and more regulations has employers sitting on their hands," Boehner said.
Throughout his speech, Boehner trumpeted his decades of political experience while he simultaneously derided the "same-old" partisan practices in Washington. Echoing a GOP line of attack from the 2008 presidential campaign, Boehner took a swipe at Obama, who worked as a community organizer in Chicago.
"We've tried 19 months of government-as-community organizer," Boehner said. "It hasn't worked."
The speech was short on details about the Republican agenda, with Boehner promising that the GOP will release its plan next month.
Democrats dismissed Boehner's prescription as a politically motivated plan that would hurt the already sluggish economy.
"It calls for fiscally reckless policies that will destabilize the economy and kill the nascent job creation that is going on now," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., his party's House campaign chief.
Boehner's call for renewing Bush's tax cuts would "blow a $700 billion hole in the deficit," Van Hollen told reporters on a conference call.
After the speech, an audience member asked Boehner what he thought of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's questions about who is funding the opposition to a proposed Islamic center near the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York.
"I really don't understand what should be investigated," Boehner said. "The American people are concerned about this. No one doubts the right of these people to build a mosque where they see fit. But just because they have the right to do something doesn't mean that it is the right thing for them to do."
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