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Hardly a Recess for House Leaders

House leaders are seeking to gain political advantage during their first recess in nearly two months through multistate recruiting and fundraising trips and Member-driven message offensives being launched by both parties.

Top Republicans are slated to attend a variety of military-themed Memorial Day events while mixing in a handful of campaign stops for rank-and-file lawmakers. Democratic leaders will use the time to talk up veteran’s benefits and Social Security, while hammering on the GOP for “abuses of power” and working to strengthen their chances of taking back the chamber heading into 2006.

Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) will begin and end his recess week in Illinois commemorating Memorial Day and attending other district events. In the middle of the week, Hastert will make a swing through the Northeast, headlining events for Pennsylvania GOP Reps. Tim Murphy and Charlie Dent before heading up to New England for gatherings with Republicans in Boston and Vermont.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas), meantime, will spend the week doing events in his Houston-area district. On Monday he will attend a Memorial Day event at Fort Bend, and on Tuesday DeLay will tour the Johnson Space Center with new NASA Administrator Michael Griffin.

DeLay is also planning to do an event at Ellington Air Force Base, which is slated for some changes under the latest round of base closures and realignments.

On the Democratic side, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) will engage in a major fundraising and candidate recruitment push in Texas, California and the Rocky Mountain West.

Pelosi will spend the majority of her recess raising money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, beginning Tuesday in DeLay’s backyard with a Houston fundraiser and finishing the week back in California with a series of events in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Hoyer, who has helped lead Democratic recruiting efforts in the past few cycles, will make a push to lure top prospects in the West over the break, hitting Nevada, Idaho, Colorado and Washington.

The Maryland lawmaker will meet with Democratic candidates and state party and labor leaders. He will also headline a fundraiser for freshman Rep. John Salazar (D-Colo.), as well helping to host a series of other events throughout the region.

“This trip demonstrates how important Democrats believe the West is to our success, and how we believe that the statewide victories we had last year in Washington, Colorado and Montana can be replicated,” Hoyer said.

Meanwhile, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R) will spend the bulk of the recess in his Missouri district. After attending a Memorial Day parade in Springfield, Blunt will hold an event to announce funding for a local military facility and will also hold two news conferences to promote a defense authorization bill amendment on reservists he sponsored.

On the campaign front, Blunt will squeeze in a fundraiser for Texas Rep. Lamar Smith (R).

More broadly, Republican leaders are asking their Members to talk about their successes so far this Congress. In the letter she is sending home with lawmakers, Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (Ohio) advised her colleagues to emphasize that the “first five months of the 109th Congress have been among the most productive in history.”

GOP lawmakers will spend the recess bragging about their passage of a host of bills — including class action, bankruptcy and an energy measures — to make the case that they are accomplishing a great deal while Democrats sit on the sidelines and gripe.

House Democrats have also armed their Caucus with a recess packet outlining key talking points for Members and encouraging them to focus in on rising gas prices, the economy, Social Security, Republican abuses of power and veterans benefits, the latter being a nod to the Memorial Day holiday.

In a letter to Democratic supporters and party activists, Pelosi said: “Republicans are beginning to stumble. Last month, they caved on their attempt to gut ethics rules. The American people have rejected the Republican Social Security privatization scheme, all but killing the centerpiece of their anti-middle class agenda.”

She added: “This week, we averted the ‘nuclear option’ in the Senate and we took the fight to expand stem cell research to the House floor in defiance of a veto threat from President Bush. Despite Tom DeLay’s vow to kill the legislation, Democrats stood together and passed this critical legislation.”

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