Unemployment numbers sharpen the debate on health care

Republicans pounced on the latest unemployment report from the Department of Labor as evidence that Democrats' $787 billion stimulus plan was a waste of money and that the House health care bill set for a vote as early as Tuesday could kill an additional 5.5 million jobs.

The Department of Labor Friday announced the jobless rate has climbed to 10.2 percent, the highest level in more than 25 years.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the news shows that more work needs to be done, but that Congress has taken steps “to protect the middle class and set the stage for economic growth.”

But House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio said the Democratic health care bill will do just the opposite by hurting small businesses and raising taxes. Boehner pointed out that 3 million people have lost their jobs since stimulus spending began in February.

“Americans are asking, 'Where are the jobs?, but all they're getting from Democrats here in Washington is more spending and more debt,” Boehner said.

Pelosi used a different set of statistics to make her case on Friday. She said the stimulus has created or saved nearly 1 million jobs and that job loss has slowed since President Obama took office.

“After watching an average of 673,000 jobs disappear in the final three months of the Bush Administration, the 190,000 jobs lost in October are fewer than the jobs lost in September,” Pelosi said, adding that the unemployment rate is expected to keep rising slightly before a rehiring trend begins.

The Democrats are set to begin debating a $1.05 trillion health care bill on Saturday that includes a government-run insurance option and a mandate that businesses provide coverage. The bill would raise taxes on upper-income earners, which Republicans say will hurt small businesses.

Republicans said the the health care bill will anger voters.

“Nothing is more a stark reminder that we are going in the wrong direction,” Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said, “than the fact that we are going to have a health care reform package in front of us that the American people, those who have lost their jobs or who feel they're in danger, are going to look to Washington and go, 'What are they doing?'”

Pelosi said her bill will make health care more affordable for individuals and businesses which "will help them invest in our economy, which will generate jobs.”
 

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