Republican Senators are set to kick off a media blitz to push a balanced budget amendment, beginning Wednesday in D.C. and building up through their July Fourth recess next week, when Members will flood local papers and airwaves with support.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) laid the groundwork for the campaign Sunday, when he told ABC News that he would call for a mid-July vote. More than a dozen lawmakers will hold a news conference Wednesday morning to reintroduce the bill they touted in March, followed by colloquies on the floor Wednesday and Thursday and multiple television appearances throughout the week.
McConnell will introduce a “broke or balanced” talking point that leaders hope will energize an effort that has failed multiple times.
The timing of the campaign is deliberate: Republicans want to gain momentum for the amendment over the July Fourth recess, when they believe they can accrue grass-roots support for the provision, before returning to Capitol Hill and forcing a vote. They also think the political climate is better now than it was in the spring, with Congressional and national attention focused on the ongoing budget debate in the run-up to the Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling.
“I think you’ll be seeing our Members slowly build up our echo chamber, taking this message back to our constituents, working with local press, local groups, local outlets in a full-scale push to get this done,” a senior GOP aide said. “We’re circumventing the traditional Beltway filters and going straight to local markets.”
All 47 Members of the Republican Conference have united behind the balanced budget amendment, a rare occurrence in a Conference that encompasses moderates such as Olympia Snowe of Maine and tea party darlings like Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah.
The aides orchestrating the hometown push for the balanced budget amendment said most lawmakers are slotted to write local opinion pieces, discuss the amendment in local TV appearances, and address the topic in town halls and constituent meetings over the holiday break. They touted a Mason-Dixon poll, published at the end of May, that found that 81 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of independents and 45 percent of Democrats support the amendment.
Republicans think they can do a better job of separating themselves from Democrats on economic issues if they do so at home, and they see the balanced budget amendment as the way to do it.
“If you take Nebraska, for example, I imagine people in Nebraska will be very interested in why both their Senators talk about the need to reduce our debt but only one of them is doing anything; same in Florida,” another GOP leadership aide said.
But Democrats aren’t biting on the balanced budget amendment bait.
“Given that Republicans just voted for a budget that increases the debt by $9 trillion, this is nothing more than a hoax to mollify their right-wing base,” a Democratic leadership aide said. “Republicans are rolling out the dog-and-pony show to try and turn this amendment into a consolation prize for their base when their plan to end Medicare isn’t in the debt deal.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, is planning a hearing on the amendment in response to a request this month from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). The hearing is timed to occur at roughly the same time that McConnell wants a floor vote. Although Democrats say they will keep an open mind, they insist that the Majority Leader sets the schedule and that the GOP push is futile, given that such a measure is unlikely to pass the Democratic-controlled chamber.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson appears at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church on M Street Northwest for a pre-rally before a march to the White House to protest what is seen as President Barack Obama's lack of action in addressing a variety of problems in black communities.
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