Top congressional Republicans said Friday that a report that few new jobs were created in the U.S. last month shows this is not the time for the government to be raising taxes. But the Republican House leader said the gloomy numbers also underscored the need for a deal on raising the federal debt limit and cutting massive budget deficits.
With the Obama administration and Congress looking for a compromise to end their standoff over government debt, House Republican leaders used the latest jobs reports to drive home their position on taxes.
"The situation that we face is pretty urgent, as a matter of fact I would describe it as dire," House Speaker John Boehner said at a news conference, emphasizing that "a debt limit increase that raises taxes or fails to make serious spending cuts won't pass the House."
He was backed up by Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who said that deficit reduction talks held by Vice President Joe Biden that Cantor abandoned had ended because Democrats were insisting on raising taxes.
"Now it just does not make sense for Americans to suffer under higher taxes in an economy like this," said Cantor.
Obama has insisted that some revenue increases be included in a deficit-reduction plan.
Boehner also stressed the need to reach a deal before the government starts defaulting on its debt on Aug. 2. A default could jolt financial markets and touch off a recession in the U.S, analysts say.
"I frankly think it puts us in an awful lot of jeopardy and puts our economy in jeopardy, risking even more jobs. So I believe it is important that we come to an agreement," he said.
The Labor Department said Friday that the economy added only 18,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 9.2 percent.
Boehner said congressional leaders and President Barack Obama were not near a debt limit agreement.
"I don't think this problem has narrowed at all in the last several days," he said.
After Obama met with congressional leaders Thursday at the White House, Obama said the session had been constructive. The talks are to resume at the White House on Sunday.