How April’s dismal jobs report is setting the stage for Biden’s $4 trillion economic fight with the GOP

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President Joe Biden speaks about the April jobs report in the White House on Friday.

  • Republicans and Democrats drew sharply different conclusions about the April jobs report.
  • Democrats used it to bolster a case for massive infrastructure spending on issues like childcare.
  • The GOP wants to slam on the spending brakes, saying stimulus benefits are setting back job growth.
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In some ways, the April jobs report resembled an optical illusion, with people making differing observations from a dataset that didn’t fit into a clean narrative.

In this case, Democrats and Republicans came to opposite conclusions about the report and what it means for the way forward in healing an economy battered by the pandemic.

The Friday report showed the economy recovered 266,000 jobs, a smaller amount defying expectations of a massive job surge on the back of government stimulus dollars, increased vaccinations, and easing restrictions. Economists had forecasted at least 1 million regained jobs.

In response, the GOP is demanding to end parts of President Joe Biden’s stimulus and calling for the government to slam the brakes on its spending. Democrats instead urged the passage of Biden’s $4 trillion infrastructure plans, viewing the lackluster report as another pillar in their argument that more spending, in part on childcare, would accelerate the recovery.

It sets the stage between the parties for a multitrillion-dollar fight on infrastructure, jobs, and families that will take up much of the White House’s time over the next few months.

The president argued for patience with his economic agenda on Friday. He said “more help is needed” and mounted a robust defense of his $1.9 trillion stimulus, which provided $1,400 direct payments and a $300-per-week federal unemployment benefit.

“When we passed the American Rescue Plan, I want to remind everybody, it was designed to help us over the course of a year – not 60 days – a year,” Biden said. “We never thought that after the first 50 or 60 days, everything would be fine.”

He flatly rejected the argument from Republicans and business groups that federal jobless aid has been sidelining people from the workforce, saying that was “nothing measurable.”

“We’re still digging out of an economic collapse that cost us 22 million jobs,” Biden said. “Let’s keep our eye on the ball.”

Kevin Brady
Rep. Kevin Brady, the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Democrats double down, Republicans pounce

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Congress to move immediately on Biden’s plans, and pointed to “women and working parents” being hit hardest in the pandemic. The number of women who held jobs fell in April, as reported by Insider’s Juliana Kaplan and Madison Hoff.

“The evidence is clear that the economy demands urgent action, and Congress will not be deterred or delayed from delivering transformational investments,” she said in a statement.

Republicans had already lined up against Biden’s plans, criticizing the proposed tax hikes on large firms and wealthy Americans as a future anchor on the economy. They pounced on the report in a fresh sign of their hardening resistance.

The GOP swung at Biden’s handling of the economy, arguing that the jobless aid was disincentivizing people from searching for a new job.

“This is a stunning economic setback, and unequivocal proof that President Biden is sabotaging our jobs recovery with promises of higher taxes and regulation on local businesses that discourage hiring and drive jobs overseas,” Rep. Kevin Brady, ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement.

He also contended that jobless aid was disincentivizing people from returning to work. The argument mirrored one made by the Chamber of Commerce, an influential business group which on Friday called for an end to the $300 federal unemployment benefit.

Many economists have long disputed that federal jobless aid has kept people from returning to work. Unemployment claims has steadily fallen over the past month. They tend to cite other factors like the lack of available childcare and school closures.

Those burdens have fallen more on women, causing 2 million women to leave the workforce in the past year. Still, experts say the US will regain its economic footing eventually, though the nation faces a rocky path ahead.

“We’re gonna see pockets of strength, pockets of weakness, areas of overheating, areas where it is uncool – it’s going to be complicated and messy,” Jason Furman, a former top economist to President Barack Obama, told Insider in an interview. “But I think hopefully all moving in the right direction.”

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Lawmakers demand answers in fatal Tesla crash after Elon Musk and executives offer conflicting details

Texas Tesla Crash.
The remains of a Tesla vehicle are seen after it crashed, killing two people, in The Woodlands, Texas, on April 17, 2021.

  • Lawmakers demanded answers Wednesday about a fatal Tesla crash after executives gave conflicting statements.
  • Elon Musk said autopilot wasn’t on, but a top Tesla exec said adaptive cruise control, an autopilot feature, was.
  • Rep. Kevin Brady and Sen. Richard Blumenthal criticized Tesla’s public statements about the crash.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Lawmakers slammed Tesla’s public response to a deadly crash involving one of its Model S vehicles that killed two men near Houston, Texas, earlier this month following conflicting statements from the company’s executives.

“Despite early claims by #Tesla #ElonMusk, autopilot WAS engaged in tragic crash in The Woodlands. We need answers,” Rep. Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, tweeted Wednesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, said he was “disappointed” that Musk weighed in publicly at all, given that two federal agencies still have ongoing investigations into the incident.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

Local authorities said following the crash that neither of the bodies they recovered were in the driver’s seat, prompting questions about whether the vehicle’s “autopilot” system – a suite of AI-powered driver assistance features – was engaged when the vehicle crashed.

Two days after the crash, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that early data obtained from the Model S showed “autopilot was not enabled,” and he doubled down on those claims in Tesla’s earnings call Monday, contradicting local authorities.

But in that same call, Tesla vice president of vehicle engineering Lars Moravy said that the vehicle’s traffic-aware, or adaptive, cruise control – part of the autopilot system, according to Tesla’s Model S owner manual – was engaged during the crash.

“Our adaptive cruise control only engaged when the driver was buckled in above 5 miles per hour. And it only accelerated to 30 miles per hour with the distance before the car crashed,” Moravy said, adding that the feature also “disengaged the car slowly to complete to a stop when the driver’s seatbelt was unbuckled.”

Moravy also pushed back on Texas authorities’ statements that no one was driving the car when it crashed.

“Through further investigation of the vehicle and accident remains, we inspected the car with NTSB and NHTSA and the local police and were able to find that the steering wheel was indeed deformed,” he said, “leading to a likelihood that someone was in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash and all seatbelts post crash were found to be unbuckled.”

Despite misleading and unverified claims about the autopilot’s capabilities and possible safety advantages, the feature doesn’t make Tesla vehicles fully autonomous. At least three drivers have died while using Tesla’s Autopilot, and the National Transportation Safety Board has called for increased scrutiny of self-driving software.

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez parodied GOP stance against $2,000 stimulus checks in a sarcastic tweet

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., attends a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Wednesday, July 17, 2019.

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez clapped back at a GOP congressman who opposed $2,000 stimulus checks, parodying his reason for opposing them.
  • The House passed a bill boosting the stimulus check totals on Monday. The vote now moves to the Senate, where passage is unlikely.
  • GOP Rep. Kevin Brady said he opposed $2,000 stimulus checks because the money would go toward paying off credit card debt and “new purchases online at Wal-Mart, Best Buy or Amazon.”
  • The congresswoman from New York replied to Brady’s statement with a parodied rephrasing of his reasoning.
  • “‘I don’t support $2k survival checks because it might help people get out of debt that our gov’t inaction helped put or keep them in in the first place.’ – GOP Congressman,” the progressive congresswoman tweeted Monday night.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez clapped back at GOP congressman’s reasoning against $2,000 stimulus checks in a tweet Monday night.

President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan coronavirus relief package on Sunday, which included $600 stimulus payments for Americans, $300 weekly federal unemployment benefits into mid-March, $25 billion in rental assistance, as well as aid for small businesses and funding for education and vaccine distribution.

Upon announcing that he signed the bill, the president also reiterated his calls on Congress to raise the stimulus checks to $2,000 – a goal he shares with many Democrats and some Republicans.

On Monday, the House achieved the required two-thirds majority to pass a bill boosting the stimulus check totals.

The bill now moves to the GOP-controlled Senate, where it is unlikely to pass. Though some in the GOP, like Sen. Marco Rubio, have signaled they support $2,000 checks.

Read more: Trump signs bipartisan coronavirus relief bill after calling on Congress to approve $2,000 stimulus checks

Some GOP voices, however, oppose the $2,000 stimulus checks. GOP Rep. Kevin Brady said on the House floor that he did not approve of increasing the stimulus checks, saying that the money would go toward paying off credit card debt and “new purchases online at Wal-Mart, Best Buy or Amazon.”

He argued that the money should be spent on helping small and mid-sized businesses. His speech was then paraphrased in a tweet by HuffPost’s Matt Fuller.

Ocasio-Cortez, a prominent progressive voice and advocate for increasing the stimulus checks, slammed Brady’s reasoning behind his opposition, replying to his statement with a parodied rephrasing.

“‘I don’t support $2k survival checks because it might help people get out of debt that our gov’t inaction helped put or keep them in in the first place.’ – GOP Congressman,” the progressive congresswoman tweeted Monday night.

In another tweet, Ocasio-Cortez tore into the group of GOP members who opposed lines of the package pushed by House Democrats, including the $2,000 stimulus checks.

“Notice how Republican Congressmen who like to claim they are the party of ‘personal responsibility’ refuse to take any responsibility themselves for blocking retroactive unemployment benefits, voting against $2k survival checks, stoking doubt about the pandemic to begin with, etc,” the New York congresswoman wrote.

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