WASHINGTON Seizing on an increase in the jobless rate, top Republicans on Friday urged President Barack Obama to get more involved in efforts to reduce the deficit which they blame for the sputtering economy.
"One look at the jobs report should show the White House it's time to get serious about cutting spending and dealing with our ailing economy," House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said after Labor Department data showed employment growth slowed sharply in May and the jobless rate rose to 9.1 percent.
Boehner said Obama needed to take a more active role in deficit-reduction talks if he hopes for agreement between Republicans and Democrats by the end of June.
"I think there's a lot of progress that's been made in the Biden talks," Boehner said of negotiations being overseen at the White House by Vice President Joe Biden.
"He (Obama) could take a more active role. He's had this hands off approach for the last several months while this conversation has raged on," Boehner added. "If he wants this agreement done by the end of the month, better get going."
Boehner was speaking at a House news conference attended by other Republican lawmakers including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who said the Biden talks had produced movement toward "coalescing around trillions of dollars in cuts."
But Cantor said the White House needed more "will" to agree on Republican positions including that tax increases be excluded from deficit-reduction options.
The Biden talks have been stuck, with Republicans refusing to consider tax increases as part of the deal while Democrats oppose Republican proposals to scale back the government-run Medicare healthcare program for future retirees.
The deficit-reduction talks, which include a bipartisan group of six members of the House and Senate, will resume on June 9.
The poor jobs numbers come a day after Moody's rating agency warned that risk of a "continuing stalemate" between the Republicans and Democrats had grown. The rating agency urged progress on deficit reduction soon, before politics takes over in the run-up to the November 2012 presidential election.
(Reporting by Deborah Charles and Donna Smith; Editing by Vicki Allen)