After GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney used the Chicago teachers' strike to take a shot at President Barack Obama, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel responded Monday by saying he didn't give "two hoots" about Romney's comments.
"While I appreciate his lip service, what really counts is what we are doing here, and I don't give two hoots about national comments scoring political points or trying to embarrass or whatever the president," Emanuel said.
Romney waded into the debate over the high-profile strike earlier today, when he criticized the union for striking and claimed that Obama would be standing in the union's corner, even though the White House has not taken a side on the issue.
"Teachers unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children, and today we are seeing one of the clearest examples yet," Romney said. "I choose to side with the parents and students depending on public schools to give them the skills to succeed, and my plan for education reform will do exactly that."
Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), went a step further on Monday, saying that the GOP ticket "stand[s] with Rahm Emanuel" on the strike. "Mayor Emanuel is right today in saying that this teacher's union strike is unnecessary and wrong," Ryan said in Oregon on Monday, according to a pool report flagged by Yahoo! News. "We know that Rahm is not going to support our campaign, but on this issue and this day we stand with Mayor Rahm Emanuel."
The roughly 26,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike Monday after months of failed negotiations with the city. The teachers have demanded that the city address staffing levels, a new employee evaluation system and what they describe as inadequate teacher salaries. The work stoppage marks the first strike by Chicago teachers in more than two decades.
If it lasts long enough, the teachers strike could become a political liability for the White House. Obama has strong ties to Chicago as well as Emanuel, his former chief of staff, who's taking on a union that has historically aligned with Democrats. Romney quickly tried to make the strike about national education policies, while the White House showed a reluctance to comment directly on the merits of the strike.
In an email to HuffPost, an Obama campaign spokesman accused Romney of wanting to gut education funding to finance tax breaks for the wealthy. Emanuel himself picked up that line of attack when he addressed reporters Monday.
"While I appreciate Mitt Romney's statement, on behalf of the kids and the parents of the city of Chicago, if he wants to help, he can then determine that when it comes to his tax cuts, he will never cut the Department of Education," Emanuel said.
In praising Obama, Emanuel argued that the president "has done one of the most important things with [the Education Department program] Race to the Top to make sure we have accountability in our system and the best qualified teachers in our schools, and that's exactly what we're trying to do here."
Given the drama surrounding the teachers strike, Emanuel's office announced Monday that the mayor would suspend his fundraising efforts on behalf of Democratic super PACs, Politico reported. "Everything is on hold at this moment," an Emanuel aide told the news site.
This post has been updated with Ryan's comments in Oregon.
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