White House won’t renew president’s jobs council

Rachel Rose Hartman

The White House is not renewing its Council on Jobs and Competitiveness set to expire on Thursday, a decision that drew a storm of criticism from Republicans who have long criticized the council for being ineffective amid continued high unemployment and national economic turmoil.

"Unbelievable," Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri began in a statement in reaction to the news.

"Over the past four years, President Obama has seemed far more interested in political show votes and tax gimmicks than actually focusing on what Americans need: more jobs," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in his statement.

White House press secretary Jay Carney at Thursday's briefing argued that the "somewhat ridiculous criticisms" issued about the council's closure are politically motivated. "It's a little ironic to hear from those who with great fervor embrace the policies that helped create the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, who resisted the policies that have helped lead us out of that crisis ... be critical on this," Carney said.

The White House Jobs Council's website on Thursday indicated the council had met four times since its inception (and has conducted 18 Listening and Action Sessions "in communities around the country with businesses and local leaders"). During the council's existence, Republicans often pointed to the council's infrequent meeting schedule as a sign of its ineffectiveness, something Republicans reiterated on Thursday.

"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," Blunt said in his statement.

In his statement, McConnell also brought up the meetings:

In fact, for more than a year, he was too focused on politics to regularly meet with or adopt the advice of the very Jobs Council he created amidst so much fanfare. With the economy shrinking and millions of Americans still out of work, there are few clearer signs of this neglect than the fact that the Jobs Council is now defunct after having met only a few times since 2011.

Carney said on Thursday that meetings were not essential to generate or propose ideas and criticized those who focused on them instead of results.

The rampant criticism also included this from Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio: "To understand the abysmal nature of our economic recovery, look no further than the president’s disinterest in learning lessons from actual job creators. Whether ignoring the group or rejecting its recommendations, the president treated his Jobs Council as more of a nuisance than a vehicle to spur job creation."

The Republican Governors Association mocked the president on Twitter:

While Obama shuts down his DC jobs council, a group with actual results in job creation—Republican Governors—remain hard at work.

—The RGA (@The_RGA) January 31, 2013

Republicans' arguments are amplified by recent economic news.

The economy on Wednesday unexpectedly contracted, with the GDP falling at a 0.1 percent rate, the Commerce Department announced. The White House said Superstorm Sandy and disruptions from deep, scheduled spending cuts were responsible for the downturn.

The jobs council was created in January 2011—after the closure of the president’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board—as a formal vehicle by which President Barack Obama could receive input on how to strengthen the nation's economy and create jobs. Carney confirmed information released earlier on Thursday that the Council on Jobs was always intended to have a two-year lifespan.

A White House official earlier on Thursday noted that the council created construction jobs related to making buildings energy-efficient, streamlined Small Business Administration applications for funds, and recommended other initiatives, such as ways to increase U.S. tourism.