Democrats Begin War With GOP on Agenda

Posted September 20, 2010 at 6:50pm

House Democrats, hoping to discredit Republicans’ election-year agenda before it is even unveiled, on Monday launched a three-pronged campaign that they hope will reframe the midterms as a choice rather than a referendum on President Barack Obama.

Democratic leaders began their offensive with a series of e-mails attacking the Republican blueprint, which will be formally announced on Thursday morning at a hardware store in Sterling, Va.

Democrats hope they can use the GOP document to highlight differences between their party’s efforts to protect jobs and social programs and that of Republicans, who they argue want to return to the failed economic policies of President George W. Bush.

Democrats will argue that the Republicans’ real agenda centers on outsourcing jobs, while Democrats want to prevent companies from sending jobs overseas; on privatizing Social Security, which Democrats want to protect and strengthen; and on providing tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, while Democrats champion tax relief for the middle class.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is expected to hammer on those themes in his weekly pen-and-pad session with reporters Tuesday, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will do the same in her weekly press conference Thursday. Pelosi pledged Sept. 16 that Democrats are “going to go out there to fight [Republicans] on privatizing Social Security and sending jobs overseas, which has been their stated policy.”

Democratic leadership offices also plan to use e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, Member media appearances and talking-point memos to talk about the Republican agenda. On Monday, Pelosi’s office sent out an e-mail accusing Minority Whip Eric Cantor of trying to obscure Republican support for “privatizing Social Security and protecting millionaires and billionaires” in an opinion piece the Virginia Republican wrote in Monday’s Wall Street Journal.

[IMGCAP(1)]”Each day we will expose a different facet of the real Republican agenda, which is focused on fighting against the middle class and job creation,” a Democratic leadership aide said.

“What I find pretty hilarious is it has taken more then 20 months for them to repackage the ideas they had when they were in power,” said another Democratic leadership aide, who said he was “thrilled” that the GOP agenda would give Democrats an opportunity to put Republicans on defense. “This is really just them trying to put lipstick on a pig.”

The Republican agenda, part of the months-long America Speaking Out effort likened to the party’s 1994 “Contract With America,” is expected to be organized around five planks: jobs, spending, health care, national security and Congressional reform.

In addition to accusing Republicans of wanting to privatize Social Security and outsource jobs, Democrats will also charge them with “putting health insurance companies back in charge of your health care,” “exploding the deficit,” and “repealing Wall Street reform and consumer protections,” the first leadership aide said.

An e-mail from Hoyer’s office Monday was tagged: “The Real Republican Agenda: Ready to Turn Over Middle Class Retirement Security to the Whims of Wall Street,” while Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) sent out an e-mail using an Aug. 24 speech by Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) to accuse the GOP of trying to reverse the country’s course.

“President Obama and the Democratic Congress have put our nation on the path to economic recovery, and GOP leaders want to take America back — back to a time where Wall Street had free reign, when tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans blew a hole in our deficit, and when corporate special interests took priority over small businesses and working families,” the e-mail said.

Democrats hope that their efforts to redefine the GOP agenda could provide a boost to Democratic incumbents and challengers, many of whom are already running ads accusing their GOP opponents of sending jobs overseas or supporting companies that do.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), for example, is on the air with a ad blasting his Republican challenger, businessman Randy Altschuler, as an “outsourcing pioneer” who “made millions outsourcing jobs,” according to the Associated Press.

Obama also took a swipe at the GOP agenda during a Monday town hall in Washington, D.C.

“Their basic argument is that if we go back to doing what we were doing before the financial crisis and before I was president that we’d be in a better place,” Obama said.

But the president argued the GOP agenda includes giving incentives to U.S. corporations to send jobs overseas. By contrast, Obama argued that Democrats support making investments “here in the United States … in research and development and plants and equipment that could put people back to work.”

The president also rejected Republicans’ “irresponsible” push to extend the Bush tax cuts to couples making more than $250,000 a year and individuals making more than $200,000 a year. Such a move would “provide tax relief to primarily millionaires and billionaires” at a cost of $700 billion, Obama said. “Those folks are the least likely to spend it.”

Republicans said Democrats are desperate.

“Flailing and out of ideas, Washington Democrats are desperate to attack … anything,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said. “Even if they have to make things up. It’s sad. We need to work together to stop Democrats’ spending spree and their job-killing tax hike — and all they want to do is launch silly, inaccurate partisan attacks.”

Jennifer Bendery, Anna Palmer and Jackie Kucinich contributed to this report.