Democrats Work With Kerry to Step Up Push on Jobs
Democratic leaders will launch an aggressive campaign today using both the Senate floor and the nation’s airwaves to criticize Republicans for failing to extend benefits to the unemployed as well as questioning President Bush’s commitment to compassionate conservatism.
The Democratic effort is being coordinated with Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) presidential campaign as the party tries to convince voters that Congressional Republicans and Bush have been poor stewards of the economy.
The Democratic offensive, which will include a “war room” in the office of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), also coincides with Wednesday’s kickoff of a new liberal talk radio network that the party believes will help amplify its message.
“Bush’s insensitivity to the American workers’ job loss has been apparent from cheerleading the million jobs sent overseas to his failure to extend unemployment benefits for those who have been out of work the longest,” charged Michael Meehan, a senior Kerry adviser.
A spokesman for Bush’s re-election campaign fired back by saying the president has laid out a legislative plan to help revive the economy while the Kerry campaign is merely engaging in partisan politics.
“We have seen months of a diatribe from the president’s opponent,” said Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel. “Bitter partisan and negative rhetoric does not help to secure our country, and it won’t help keep the economy growing.”
Democrats are sharpening their message on jobless benefits this week just as the number of people receiving federal unemployment assistance is expected to climb to 1.1 million Thursday, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal- leaning think tank.
Democrats seized on the analysis and criticized Republicans and Bush for refusing to extend unemployment benefits at a time when job creation has not kept pace with the growth of the economy.
“The American people deserve to know why more than 1 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits and why Republican leaders have refused to help them,” said Daschle.
The think tank and Democrats point out that when the unemployment assistance runs out on March 31, it will set a new record for people who have lost their jobless benefits.
Meehan said the Kerry camp is looking to “amplify the message on the campaign trail and in the Congress” this week to step up pressure on Republicans.
But Stanzel responded, “Anger is not an agenda and Senator Kerry’s support for higher taxes, including his call for a 50-cent increase in the gas tax would derail our economic recovery and destroy jobs throughout this country.”
The Democratic war room, located just steps off the Senate floor, will be wired to allow Senators to conduct live interviews with talk radio programs, a medium they are trying to gain a foothold in.
Air America Radio, a national liberal network that boasts Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo as two of its personalities, is scheduled to sign on Wednesday, and Senators are expected to appear on the network as well as on liberal talk radio host Ed Schultz’s nationally syndicated show. In addition, Democratic aides are trying to book Senators on other talk radio programs across the country.
A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said the Tennessee Republican had no comment on the Democrats’ strategy.