January 5th, 2014
10:15 AM ET
8 months ago

White House warns Republicans against fighting economic fixes

Washington (CNN) – The President’s top economic adviser warned Republicans that threatening default on the debt limit was risking political peril.

The White House's Director of the National Economic Council told CNN's Candy Crowley on Sunday morning that Republicans not only risk doing irreparable damage to the economy if they were to risk the full faith and credit of the United States in another political showdown with the Obama administration, but they could also destroy their chances at the polls in November.


"I think that it will be harmful, not just for the economy, but harmful politically, if Republicans use 2014 as a year to threaten default again on the debt limit," Gene Sperling said.

Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," Sperling touted the forward progress made with last month's bipartisan budget compromise, but his salvo to Republicans illustrates the tenuousness of that partnership.

"We are building off some bipartisan cooperation in the budget agreement," Sperling said. "Are we going to build off that momentum?"

Sperling's prodding of the Republican leadership comes amid the President's renewed push to extend unemployment insurance for the more than 1 million Americans who have been out of work for more than six months. In his weekly address, Obama cauterized Republicans in Congress who "went home for the holidays and let that lifeline expire."

"Republicans should make it their New Year's resolution to do the right thing, and restore this vital economic security for their constituents right now," Obama said.

The Senate plans to take up the measure and hold its first procedural vote on the issue when the body returns from its holiday recess Monday. Democrats remain unsure if they have enough Republican support to cross the 60 vote threshold to clear the hurdle, a senior leadership aide told CNN.

Sperling channeled the President's tone Sunday, echoing Obama's labeling of the Republican position as "cruel" and admonishing those on the other side of the aisle for making an unwelcome milestone by cutting off emergency benefits for the first time in the last half century.

"We have never cut off emergency unemployment benefits when the unemployment rate is this high," Sperling said. "Tomorrow is actually the day that 1.3 million Americans will go to the mailbox and find that check missing, the check that they rely on to put food on their table."

Sperling proceeded to question Republican motives, almost daring GOP members to flout overtures from the Obama administration, especially on an issue as critical to the Republican 2014 agenda as job creation. Sperling made clear that, for him, the Republican case against acting on unemployment insurance smacks more about political expediency than protecting citizens against what he called "the worst legacy of the Great Recession."

"The question is: Is the only reason people want to work together on jobs politics? Or are we here to try to create jobs, strengthen the middle class, deal with inequality, have each other’s backs in hard times?"

Republicans like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul insist that the benefits are an economic drain and de-incentivize looking for work. The Congressional Budget Office estimates extending the assistance will cost about $26 billion.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner told CNN that the Ohio Republican will insist Democrats offset the cost of extending unemployment insurance before he agrees to any proposal.

However, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker broke rank Sunday from the rest of the party and said that he supports extending unemployment benefits on the condition that the eligibility requirements be tweaked.

"Any discussion on this should be what reforms can we make," Walker said on CNN's "State of the Union."

As of October, the unemployment rate in Wisconsin sat at 6.5%, well below the national average.

soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Smitty

    Top advisor ??? he must of missed Basic business 101. This admin couldn't lead a little old lady across the street. This should be a good time for bammy to pivot to jobs for the 10th time, you just cant make this stuff up, like this guy has advised so well the last 5 yrs, @ Donna they lie for no valid reason, remember Bammy won the BIGGEST LIAR OF YHE YEAR AWARD !!!! they will continue to blame everyone but themselves.

    January 5, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
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