Washington politicians split on jobs numbers, stress bipartisanship


With the news that the economy added 155,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate remained at 7.8 percent - the fourth consecutive month under 8 percent - members of Congress and the White House are pointing to the economic indicator to promote their economic agendas.

While President Obama is in Hawaii, his chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Alan Krueger, said the jobs report "provides evidence" that the economy is "continuing to heal." And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the numbers prove that the private sector continues to show signs of improvement with the 34th consecutive month of private sector job growth.

Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who is fresh off being reelected speaker by his Republican caucus, had a different take. He said the jobs numbers show that "too many Americans are still out of work and Washington has too much debt."

Health care, food services and construction are industries that saw the most gain while the federal and local governments continue to shed jobs, losing 13,000 jobs last month, most in the education sector.

While the Washington leaders had different, partisan outlooks on the economic data, both sides stressed the need for the newly sworn in 113th Congress to find common ground.

"Democrats and Republicans must work side-by-side to seek and find solutions to our economic challenges," Pelosi wrote.

Boehner said, "This is the year we need to work together to solve these problems."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered a similar sentiment: "To keep our recovery going, we need to avoid another knock-down, drag-out fight over whether to default, or to pay our nation's existing bills."

Their statements urging bipartisanship come just days after a rancorous fight over the "fiscal cliff" that resulted in a deal that solved only parts of the "cliff" - most critically, tax rates. The deal kept tax rates at current levels for all individuals making below $400,000 per year but punted on most of the $110 billion worth of spending cuts for this year that have been postponed for two months.

Reading deeper into lawmakers' statements reveals that working together is going to be much easier to talk about than do. Reid called out Republicans for "threatening to once again hold the full faith and credit of the United States hostage in order to force cuts to Social Security and Medicare." Reid is referring to the other upcoming fight over the nation's debt ceiling, which will need to be addressed before March. "If our recovery is to take off, we must forego this kind of reckless, partisan brinksmanship, and work together to find solutions that work for the middle class," Reid added.

The Obama administration praised the "fiscal cliff" deal as beneficial to the economy but said the federal budget policy moving forward must be revamped in "a responsible way that balances revenue and spending." It's the same message the president had prior to the deal over tax cuts and signals that he won't cut spending without additional increases in revenue.

Boehner said the problem with the economy rests with some of the issues most important to Democrats, including entitlements. "In the coming months, the House will pass real spending cuts, meaningful reforms of the entitlement programs that are driving us deeper into debt, and a fairer, cleaner tax code," the speaker said.

The second ranking Democrat in the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D- Md., said, "I hope House Republicans will use these first weeks of the 113th Congress to work with Democrats on jobs legislation."

While the unemployment rate is below 8 percent for most sectors of the population, it was far above that for African American men and teenagers, groups experiencing documented unemployment at 14 and 23 percent, respectively.

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.