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House Republicans, Democrats Argue over Employment Statistics, Iraq - 2004-04-03


As the House of Representatives adjourned for a two week spring break, Republicans and Democrats continued to spar over domestic and foreign policy issues. Republicans say the latest statistics on employment show Bush administration policies are working, while Democrats say they demonstrate the continued weakness of the economy.

Department of Labor statistics showing 308,000 jobs were created during the month of March set off new exchanges between Democrats and Republicans seeking to put their own spin on the figures.

Democrats have been charging for some time that Bush administration policies, in particular the tax cuts the Republican-controlled Congress has passed, have led to the loss of nearly three million jobs.

However, the picture has brightened somewhat, with upward growth in the number of people finding work in the first three months of this year, totaling about 500,000 new jobs.

Republican lawmakers used a flurry of pre-adjournment press releases to trumpet the improvements. Saying the job statistics show the economy is ready for a sustained period of growth, Republicans criticized Democrats as pessimists who want to roll back the president's successful strategies.

Republicans also launched a new round of attacks on the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry, for statements they say show he will raise taxes for Americans.

Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez echoed one of the key points Republicans are using in their campaign against Mr. Kerry. "The policies of the captain of the ship, the Republican leadership in this House, the Republicans in this Congress, have set us on the right path and are calming the waters. It is not the time to change captains or change course," he said.

All of this appeared to place Democrats on the defensive.

In an interview with VOA and other news organizations, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi acknowledges that the new statistics are good news, but questions the reliability of the trend.

"Not one of those jobs is a manufacturing job. Not one," she said. "That's why I say, where are the jobs? While there are 308,000 jobs created last month, the unemployment rate went up to 5.7 percent. I think that is a reflection of the fact that many people had given up looking for work and now many more will go back hopefully into the work force."

On foreign policy issues, Democrats appeared to be somewhat cautious in using the horrific killings of American civilian contractors in Iraq as the basis to launch significant new criticisms on administration Iraq policy.

Mrs. Pelosi questions how sovereignty can be transferred later this year to the Iraqi governing council given the continuing unstable security situation.

However, she had this response when asked if Americans are justified, in the wake of the most recent incidents in Iraq, in thinking the United States should perhaps just withdraw from Iraq.

"I would reject that. Again, as one who strenuously opposed our going into war," she said. "We are there now, and we have assumed a responsibility and the last thing we would want is for these barbarians to perform this wretched act of terror, to think that that would be enough to diminish our resolve."

Mrs. Pelosi says National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will probably do an "excellent job" in her scheduled public testimony before the independent bi-partisan September 11 Commission next week. However, she continues to fault the Bush administration for what she calls "a pattern of arrogance" in the way it deals with classified information and a range of other issues.

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