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Parties Arm Their Members With Recess Rhetoric

House and Senate Republicans go into the Memorial Day recess looking to make the case that Democrats have failed the American people on economic issues, national security and energy policy, while Democrats will use their recent string of legislative successes to try to build up their brand before November’s elections.

On the Senate side, Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander has armed his Members with a series of talking points heavy on “kitchen table” issues like jobs, the economy, the war on terror and the national debt.

The Tennessee Republican has also asked his Members to hammer home their claims that Democratic health care and economic policies amount to “government takeovers.”

“During their time in the state, Senate Republicans will continue talking about the issues that their constituents care the most about — jobs, debt, terror and stopping government takeovers,” a senior GOP leadership aide said.

Alexander has also prepared specific talking points on current hot-button issues, most notably the nomination of Elena Kagan to become the next Supreme Court justice and the Gulf of New Mexico oil spill. For instance, Republicans will use the break to continue questioning Kagan’s background and position on gays serving in the military, while arguing that the White House has failed to take adequate measures to address the oil spill.

While Senate Republicans will be focusing on broad issues, the House GOP has been instructed to use the break to promote its leadership’s latest online campaign as a central theme of its recess messaging.
House Republican leaders told Members to use the break to promote by encouraging their constituents to contribute ideas to the new GOP website.

In their Memorial Day recess packet, distributed by the House Republican Conference, Members were advised to stress that it was too early to determine what form the final agenda will take when it is completed.

“This will not just be a GOP agenda,” one of the talking points said. “It’s a process and product that can transcend traditional politics and restore trust.”

In a memo to Members, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the project the “manifestation of Republicans’ commitment to servant leadership.”

Democrats have dismissed the site as an election-year gimmick.

Republicans will also continue their assault on Democratic handling of spending, national security, energy and health care reform.

“We are going to be encouraging Members of Congress to remember the fallen and seize every opportunity to connect with their constituents on the need to get this economy moving again and the need to get federal spending under control,” Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) said.

Republicans said the failure of House Democrats to put forth a fiscal 2011 budget was indicative of a larger spending problem.

In his memo, Boehner said the lack of a House Democratic budget was an “outrageous failure of leadership.”

In the recess packet, Republican Members were advised to say the failure to produce a budget was proof that Democrats were unable to lead.

“Democrats should act like a Majority Party and propose a budget resolution in a straight-forward and bi-partisan process,” the packet said. “American families can’t simply choose to stop budgeting and spend without consequences. Congress shouldn’t be able to either.”

The recess packet also contains suggested talking points for Members who are asked about the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Lawmakers were advised to stress that although the disaster has wreaked havoc on the communities along the Gulf Coast, it is not the time to cut back on offshore drilling.

“Those responsible must be held accountable and the lessons learned from this accident should be included as part of strict safety standards for offshore exploration moving forward,” the packet said. “As the price of gas remains near $3 a gallon in parts of the country, House Republicans recognize that now is not the time to increase our dependence on foreign oil by retreating from offshore exploration.”

Democrats, meanwhile, are using the break to tout their efforts on the economy as well as to make the case for other pending priorities, including immigration and energy.

For instance, Senate Democrats will likely use the recent passage of financial reform legislation to make the case that they are “taking on Wall Street.” Democrats in both chambers will look to tout recent decreases in unemployment and other positive economic indicators to argue their policies have begun to turn around the recession.

One of the key messaging efforts that Democrats are pushing this recess is that they are “putting middle-class families over special interests” and the financial reform legislation will likely play prominently in that effort, Democrats said.

Democrats will also continue their efforts to turn public perception of their health care reform legislation. For instance, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sent his Members home with recess materials stressing immediate effects of the law – such as expanding coverage of adult children, children with pre-existing conditions and helping “early retirees” — while making the broader the case that the reform “works for middle-class Americans.”

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