The government's labor dispute with Boeing Co. is turning into a political headache for President Barack Obama, giving his Republican rivals a fresh opening to bash the administration's economic policies.
From congressional hearings to presidential debates, outraged Republicans are keeping up a steady drumbeat of criticism over the National Labor Relations Board's lawsuit against the aerospace giant.
The NLRB says Boeing retaliated against its unionized workforce in Washington state by opening a new production line for its 787 airplane in South Carolina, a right-to-work state. The agency wants a judge to order Boeing to return all 787 assembly work to Washington, even though the company has already built a new $750 million South Carolina plant and hired 1,000 new workers there.
The case - which could drag on for years - has become an unwanted distraction for Obama as he tries to mend relations with the business community and contend with polls that show growing public disapproval over his handling of the economy.
It makes an easy target for Republicans, who call it a case of government overreaching at a time when the private sector is struggling to create new jobs. And it's a major story in South Carolina - a bellwether early primary state in the GOP presidential race. Candidates are lining up to impress voters and the state's Republican governor, tea party favorite Nikki Haley.