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Senate Democrats Happy to Shun Spotlight, for Now

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Sen. Charles Schumer is leading Democrats’ messaging effort and a revamped communications war room in the 112th Congress.

“I think it is fair to say, when it comes to Leader Reid, to Leader Pelosi and their statements of that sort, they clearly don’t understand what Americans want as far as health care is concerned,” Cantor said, referencing House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

But Senate Democrats said they see the House Republicans as their chief opponent in the new Congress.

“We’re going on offense, in an aggressive effort to define them from the day they take office,” one senior Senate Democratic aide said. Another senior aide added that the strategy of defining Republicans and their agenda would continue throughout the Congress.

Democrats, including Schumer, have also tried to put pressure on new tea-party-inspired House Members this week to reject the government-provided health insurance they will get as Members of Congress. 

Senate Democrats also planned to hold a press conference today to highlight what they say are the myriad ways in which House Republicans have backtracked on their vows to cut the deficit and reduce spending. 

When the Senate goes on a two-week recess starting today, Democratic Senators will be armed with more talking points on just what House Republicans are voting to repeal when they vote next week on health care. Democrats have already been noting that repealing the controversial law would force seniors to pay more for Medicare prescriptions, prohibit families from keeping older children on their insurance and end free coverage for preventive care, among other things.

Another Senate Democratic aide said the more aggressive messaging approach is also intended to emphasize what Democrats believe is the House Republicans’ “extreme” agenda.

“There’s a sense that they’re going to be taking their wildest swings now, whether it’s goofy stuff like getting sworn in by the chief justice or health care repeal,” the aide said. “The more these zany ideas are exposed and the more hypocrisy is exposed, that only helps the Democratic Party.”

Upon their return on Jan. 24, the first senior Senate Democratic aide said, Democrats will begin to outline their own agenda, which will be dubbed the “American Competitiveness Agenda,” and focus on jobs and the economy.

“Health care repeal has nothing to do with jobs and the economy,” the aide stated. “House Republicans are just rehashing fights from the last Congress.”

Along with the enhanced message strategy, the DPCC announced Wednesday the long-expected staff shake-up caused by the merger of the former Democratic Policy Committee and Reid’s own communications “war room.” Summers will serve as communications director for Reid but work out of the DPCC. Schumer Communications Director Brian Fallon will serve as chief spokesman for the caucus at large, and Schumer Legislative Director Katie Beirne will be the DPCC’s staff director, overseeing both the policy and communications teams.

Other staff changes are expected as well. In the past month, former war room staff director Rodell Mollineau and Reid Senior Communications Adviser Jim Manley announced their departures.

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