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Senate Democrats Unite Against McCain

As the Democratic presidential race continues, Democratic Senators met Thursday to forge ahead with a message for the eventual nominee and their own hopes of increasing their Senate majority.

Noting that a Thursday Democratic Conference meeting was not “out of the ordinary,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a supporter of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), said that she and her colleagues were moving ahead with a party strategy that would allow Democrats to be on the same page and speak with one voice. McCaskill said that she and her colleagues would help the eventual nominee draw a stark difference between their policies and those of Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

“Sen. McCain voted against [extending state health insurance for families with children] and he voted against an increase in the minimum wage. We, as Democrats, are going to show that McCain wants to continue the failed Bush policies,” McCaskill said.

Senate Democrats plan to advertise an agenda that will emphasize their legislative victories for middle-income Americans on reducing gasoline prices, mortgage foreclosure prevention, health care and education. Democrats say their change message resonates and provides an absolute difference with Republicans.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), a backer of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) for president, agreed with McCaskill, saying that Senate Democrats plan to do a number of things that will highlight a unified Democratic front against McCain and President Bush. Stabenow added that Republicans have been active in using the Senate floor to promote their candidate and Democrats plan to follow suit.

Wednesday morning, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a staunch McCain backer, took Democrats by surprise when he offered a GI benefits amendment to an unrelated bill that was sponsored by the Arizona Senator, which rivaled a GI plan proposed by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.). Graham argued that the collective bargaining bill was the “last vehicle” in which he could introduce legislation that would challenge the Democratic version.

Democrats plan to offer the Webb GI plan for the war-funding bill during a Senate Appropriations Committee markup Thursday.

Stabenow said the Democratic message would be the same regardless of whether Clinton or Obama secured the Democratic presidential nomination. The Michigan Democrat added that both candidates have “passionate” support from their Senate colleagues and all Democrats would do anything to help.

Furthermore, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who has endorsed Obama, said that Democrats plan to use their message of “change and moving in a different direction” to propel their presidential nominee to the White House.

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