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GOP’s Message Targets Sotomayor, Energy, Health

Congressional Republicans will carve out as much time as they can between patriotic parades, flag-waving ceremonies and church picnics over the July Fourth recess to hammer Democrats on energy, health care and the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

Still stinging from back-to-back weeks in which their policy messages were knocked off the front pages by sex scandals involving Republican Sen. John Ensign (Nev.) and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, House and Senate Republicans are hoping to use the recess to regain some of the footing they lost.

Using the Independence Day break to malign the work of the majority party is a time-honored tradition in Washington, and Republicans hope to live up to tradition by branding Democrats as a “far left— party intent on “big government takeovers,— “bringing terrorists to the U.S.— and purposefully inflating the debt through “wasteful spending,— according to recess messaging documents prepared for House and Senate Republicans.

The recess message is part of a broader effort by leadership to play on — and encourage — voter fears over the economy. With energy prices on the rise and the public skeptical about the cost of Democrats’ health care plans, Republicans believe a focus on those areas will prove politically beneficial.

In the Senate, Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) also has armed his Members with an added talking point — the nomination of Sotomayor. The Supreme Court hopeful’s confirmation hearings begin July 13, giving the GOP little time to try to derail Obama’s first high court pick.

Thanks to the work of Judiciary ranking member Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and his staff, Republicans have put together a strategy to make the case that Sotomayor is far outside the mainstream.

The problem, thus far, has been that aside from the GOP’s conservative base, the Sotomayor nomination has yet to resonate with the broader public. The interparty fight, while accelerating, has remained largely “under the Dome,— where Democrats would be more than happy to keep it.

With an eye toward expanding the reach of the Supreme Court message, Senate Republicans can be expected to criticize the Sotomayor nomination throughout the recess. In particular, Members will speak out against her opinions on gun rights, affirmative action programs and the use of foreign and international laws in the United States, while making the case that her written statements, rulings and speeches “show an out of the mainstream view of the role of a judge,— according to recess documents.

Republicans also said they will continue to use her work with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund as a source of material.

Meanwhile, House Republicans will focus their attacks against Democrats over energy, the economy and health care.

“The Democrat Majority continues to advance reckless spending, despite the rising opposition of the American people,— GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) said in a letter included in a recess packet to Members. “They are using virtually every trick in the book to continue the failed policies of the Left, and they continue to push hard for a devastating national energy tax and a government takeover of health care.—

The 16-page, GOP messaging document slammed the Democratic energy bill in the “talking points— section, referring to the cap-and-trade provision as “cap and tax— and warning that the bill will raise taxes and cause energy companies to move overseas. The House moved toward a vote on the climate change measure late last week before breaking for the recess.

“The Democrats’ national energy tax is too high a price to pay for an energy plan that will do little to clean up our environment,— the House GOP packet said. “Manufacturers will simply ship their plants and their pollution to countries that lack environmental safe guards.—

Under the heading “Best Practices,— the GOP recess document includes instructions for how Members can hold an energy summit in their districts. Over the Memorial Day recess, Pence held three similar town-hall-style summits on energy in three different cities.

On health care, Republican House Members are being advised to talk about how the creation of a government-run, public plan option would deprive Americans of the ability to choose their health care provider and that it would worsen the economic downturn.

The House GOP recess packet also takes aim at the previously passed stimulus package that Republicans charge has not created jobs. One paragraph, labeled “Obama’s Stimulus Swindle,— shows the unemployment rate rising despite the implementation of the stimulus.

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