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House Democrats are returning to yet another tactic they employed the last time they were in the minority: holding mock hearings to draw attention to their positions.
Party leaders on Wednesday held the second in what will be a series of unofficial, Democrat-only hearings that they hope will bring attention to how they would govern if they were back in control and paint a contrast with Republicans. Wednesday’s session — organized through the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee — focused on the urgency of creating jobs.
“There should be no higher priority for this Congress than creating jobs now,” said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who called the hearing along with Democratic Steering and Policy Committee Co-Chairmen Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) and George Miller (Calif.).
Coming on the heels of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in which he stressed the need to invest in the nation’s aging infrastructure, the hearing had a heavy emphasis on the nation’s transportation and infrastructure needs. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (D) and transportation and infrastructure experts testified.
Democratic sources say the reason for the hearings is twofold: combat the GOP majority’s agenda and fill the vacuum left by the White House on messaging. Democratic Members have been unhappy with the Obama administration’s role in communicating their positions, particularly on health care reform and the economy.
The mock forums were standard practice for Democrats the last time they were in the minority; House and Senate Democrats held them regularly before they retook the majority in 2006. Senate Republicans also held similar hearings last Congress to highlight their positions on a range of issues including energy and tort reform. For the minority, they are one of the few avenues available to drive the conversation because the majority controls the floor and the agenda.
During last month’s debate over Republicans’ efforts to repeal health care reform, House Democrats held a similar hearing aimed at highlighting the positive effects that the law is having on ordinary Americans’ lives.
“We can’t push a bill on the floor,” said a senior Democratic aide, who added that “it just makes sense to get as much attention to the hearing as possible.”
A second senior aide accused Republicans of “legislating by talking point and sound bite” and said the hearings were a chance for Democrats to highlight their positions.
“For better or worse, Democrats are very substance-focused — and a talking point or a bumper sticker is not enough,” the aide said.