House Democrats Look to Brag About Record

Posted October 22, 2007 at 6:37pm

House Democrats will launch an all-out message push in the final months of 2007 in an effort to salvage their public approval ratings and show they have made progress on their promised agenda since taking the majority in the 110th Congress.

Democratic leaders, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), announced the effort in a “Dear Colleague” letter to her Members last week, and leadership offices convened an all-hands on-deck meeting Monday targeting Democratic chiefs of staff, legislative directors and press secretaries lasting nearly two hours.

“We need your help telling this story. At a time when many of us — and many Americans — feel our country has been moving in the wrong direction, it is critical that we help Americans learn where we stand and what we have accomplished,” the Oct. 19 letter states. “The coming one-year anniversary of the 2006 election, when Americans chose a New Direction, provides a natural hook to tell this story, and keep telling it through the end of the year.”

Although the latest refrain echoes the message Democratic leaders have churned out since taking control of the House in January, Democratic aides assert the newly concentrated version — including mandates that rank-and-file lawmakers take part in the effort — should elevate the majority’s domestic achievements out of the shadow of the Iraq War, which has dominated headlines and fed into abysmal approval ratings for Congress in recent months.

While Members will be called on to take part in the typical array of events — town hall meetings, editorial board interviews with local media, writing opinion pieces and issuing mass mailings — especially during the two-week recess in late November, Democratic leaders said they won’t just be encouraging those events, they’ll be actively tallying who’s doing what.

“Member-to-Member interaction is the best way to encourage participation and involvement of everyone in your Caucus,” said Kristie Greco, a spokeswoman for House Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.). According to Greco, the Whip team will track the number and kind of event that each lawmaker hosts or produces during the two-month period.

“A group effort, a strategic and coordinated push helps make your message more effective,” she added.

In their Oct. 19 letter, Democratic leaders asked that each Member conduct a minimum of three such events, touting the themes of “restoring accountability,” “making America safer” and “restoring the American dream.” While Democrats called for attention to legislative successes such as raising the federal minimum wage, the plan also appears to put emphasis on President Bush’s veto of items including an Iraq War funding bill as well as stem-cell research and an expansion of children’s health insurance.