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GOP pounces on shuttered WH jobs council

Feb. 1, 2013 at 11:47 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Republicans said President Barack Obama's disbanded jobs council of big-name U.S. business chiefs was a failure that offered a lot of show but few results.

The President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, which had a two-year charter that expired Thursday and was not renewed, would be replaced with "a new, expanded effort" with business leaders "and other outside groups" to promote economic growth and deal with policy priorities such as immigration, tax reform and deficit reduction, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Carney cited as an example a conference call senior members of Obama's team held Wednesday with executives to discuss the president's immigration blueprint.

"The president will continue this engagement with outside groups next week," Carney said, without providing further details.

The 25-person council -- which included chief executive officers from General Electric Co., American Express Co. and Boeing Co. along with academics and others regarded as innovative thinkers -- met four times and held 18 "listening and action sessions" nationwide.

Its last meeting was Jan. 17, 2012, the council's website says.

When a reporter questioned Carney about the number of meetings and criticism suggesting a lack of evidence of activity, Carney said, "I appreciate the fact that you are more concerned with meetings than progress."

Carney said Obama, who attended all four meetings, didn't agree with every recommendation, but agreed on many of them and acted on several.

These include retrofitting government buildings to be more energy-efficient, taking steps to create construction jobs and making it easier for Americans to start small businesses, Carney said.

The panel's expiration came a day before the U.S. Labor Department said the unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage point to 7.9 percent but revised earlier employment figures to show the economy added 335,000 more jobs than originally estimated in 2012, bringing total job growth to more than 2.2 million.

The higher revisions sent the Dow Jones industrial average over the 14,000-point mark for the first time since 2007.

At the same time, the panel's expiration came a day after the government said the economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Top congressional Republicans were quick to pounce on the council's disbandment.

"To understand the abysmal nature of our economic recovery, look no further than the president's disinterest in learning lessons from actual job creators," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement.

"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 statement said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Obama should have convened "the jobs council he created amidst so much fanfare."

GE, whose CEO Jeffery Emmelt chaired the council, said last week it would shut plants in Warren, Ohio, and Ravenna, Ohio. It also said it would close six turbine repair facilities in several places, including Pittsburgh and Houston, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Boeing, whose CEO James McNerney was also on the council, said in November it would cut defense division management jobs 30 percent from 2010 levels and close facilities in California. It later said it would cut 40 percent of all jobs at plant in El Paso, Texas, the Times said.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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