Democrats use jobs report as ammunition in ‘fiscal cliff’ fight

Rachel Rose Hartman

Amid the standoff in Washington, D.C., over a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff," Democrats received a boost when the November jobs report showed a drop in unemployment.

Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 146,000 in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report released on Friday, and unemployment dropped from 7.9 percent in October to 7.7 percent in November.

The chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, Alan Krueger, noted in a statement that the unemployment rate was at its "lowest since December 2008."

"It is critical that we continue the policies that are building an economy that works for the middle class," Krueger said.

At a press conference on Capitol Hill on Friday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi began with what she called the "encouraging news" on jobs, and then launched into an assault on Republicans for failing to support the president's fiscal policies and preventing the economy from "growing at a faster rate."

Republicans, she said, "are holding the middle-income tax cuts, as they always have, hostage to tax cuts for the wealthy." Democrats want tax increases for families making $250,000 or more as part of a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff—the automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to go into effect Jan. 1.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid echoed those sentiments in a statement on Friday: "While too many Americans in Nevada and across the country continue to struggle, there is no doubt our economy is moving in the right direction.The only question is whether Republicans will jeopardize the progress made so far by forcing a $2,200 tax hike on middle-class families, or initiating another destructive fight over the debt ceiling."

Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who is leading the GOP fight over the fiscal cliff, was asked at a press conference on Friday why, in the face of "improving" jobs numbers, would he take a risk on having Congress fail to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff.

Boehner responded, "Because the risk the president wants us to take—increasing tax rates—will hit many small businesses that produce 60 to 70 percent of the new jobs market. That's the whole issue here."