WASHINGTON — On a day that Nevada’s unemployment rate topped the nation, Sen. Harry Reid said things would be even worse if Democrats had not acted to create and save jobs through economic stimulus.
Reid, D-Nev., defended Democrats in a Senate speech Friday, saying 3 million Americans who went to work in the morning have Democrats to thank for pushing through the economic recovery bill last year.
“The economy in Nevada is not in good shape. It is getting better but not good,” he said. “We are one of the leading states in the union with unemployment but think how much worse it would be if we had not been able to create these jobs in Nevada with the recovery bill.”
Reid said the stimulus act “has created or saved more than 4,000 jobs in just the past four months alone,” in Nevada. The highway bill that Congress extended earlier this year saved “hundreds and hundreds of jobs” in the state, he said.
“We worked hard to create jobs,” he said, noting the Obama administration was about to recognize the 10,000th road project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
News that Nevada’s 14 percent unemployment for May had bumped Michigan for the dubious distinction of being the state in the deepest job hole prompted a fresh round of hand-wringing and partisan finger-pointing among state leaders, politicos and leader wannabes.
Republicans pounced on Reid in an ongoing bid to tag him the poster boy for the Nevada recession.
Republican National Committee spokesman Jahan Wilcox claimed by the jobs measure the stimulus has failed and “nobody has done more to ensure that Nevada leads the country in unemployment than Harry Reid.”
While Sharron Angle, Reid’s Republican opponent in the fall race, was preparing reaction through her campaign, she remarked on her Twitter account: “Nevada now leads the nation in unemployment. Is there any doubt we’re heading in the wrong direction with Harry Reid?”
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that was enacted in February 2009 authorized $787 billion for a variety of programs intended to create jobs and promote investment in response to the recession.
According to recovery.gov, the Obama administration’s site for tracking the stimulus, 4,774 jobs were funded by the recovery bill from January through the end of March. In February, Nevada Department of Transportation director Susan Martinovich said the stimulus would “create or sustain” 1,600 jobs on more than 70 road and transit projects.
Despite that the pain continues.
Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said the state’s new jobless figures indicates the recovery is not working.
“Since the passage of the stimulus, Nevada’s economy has continued to decline,” Heller said in a statement. “Despite assertions to the contrary, it does not appear that jobs are being saved or created under the current economic plan.”
Heller said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, R-Calif., needs “a wake up call.”
“While our economy continues to struggle and Nevadans seek work, the U.S. House of Representatives just this week voted on measures to recognize that milk and bald eagles are good and to honor the Hollywood Walk of Fame,” he said.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid said a partisan debate about the already passed stimulus package was a “waste of time.”
“The bill passed,” the younger Reid said. “We ought to claw and scratch our way, do what we can to get that money.
“It’s impossible to have a quality of life if you don’t have a job, that’s why I’m talking as much as I am about education. We’ll never solve this problem if we don’t make our schools better. No companies will come to Nevada if we can’t graduate half our kids from our schools.”
His Republican counterpart, former federal judge Brian Sandoval, said he was worried.
“These numbers are beyond concerning,” Sandoval wrote in a statement. “Losing a job is devastating to a family. Nothing is more important to me than getting Nevada working again.”
Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., blamed the Bush administration, out of office for close to two years, for leaving behind “an economic crisis that was deeper than anyone anticipated.”
“Pulling Nevada out of the deepest recession in a generation will not be easy,” said Titus, who faces a challenge this year from Republican Joe Heck. She added that solving the problem “will take time,” and the goal should be to diversify the state economy through renewable energy ventures.
But Republicans focused some of their blame on the freshman congresswoman, saying she has supported a Democratic “job-killing agenda.”
“The longer Titus allows this jobless recovery to drag on, the more difficult it will be to restore the kind of fiscal discipline essential to job creation,” said Ken Spain, communications director of the National Republican Campaign Committee.
Titus and Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said Nevada’s record unemployment underscored the need for Congress to extend payments for the long-term unemployed, a matter that has been clogged in the Senate in a dispute over further government spending.
“We desperately need an extension of unemployment benefits for our neighbors who remain without work and who count on these checks for food and rent,” Berkley said. “The economic challenges we face in Nevada are great, and when mom or dad is unemployed, families have a hard time just making ends meet.
Review Journal writer Kristi Jourdan contributed to this report. Contact Stephens Washington bureau chief Steve Tetreault at email@example.com or 202-783-1760.