GOP Readies Its December Attack Plan
While Senate Republicans may have used Thanksgiving to rest up for the protracted health care debate starting this week, House Republicans continue to pivot to other hot-button issues, including broader economic problems and the war in Afghanistan.House Republicans plan to use President Barack Obama’s Thursday jobs summit as an opportunity to promote their own set of solutions to the current economic environment. The GOP Economic Recovery Solutions Group led by Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) has put together a document outlining its ideas that is expected to be released at the Heritage Foundation on Wednesday.John Murray, a spokesman for Cantor, said the Republican proposal includes “common-sense solutions— to help reduce unemployment, address the lack of credit in the marketplace and tackle other issues that directly impact small businesses.“The goal is to offer a clear contrast for how we would address the current economic environment,— Murray said.House Republicans — emboldened by Obama’s falling poll numbers — have spent the last month hammering the administration and Congressional Democrats for focusing too heavily on crafting health care reform while job growth remains at a standstill.“Washington Democrats claimed their trillion-dollar stimulus’ would keep unemployment below eight percent and create jobs immediately,’— said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).“Instead, three million more Americans have lost their jobs, and unemployment is over 10 percent … the American people are asking, Where are the jobs?’ But all they are getting from out-of-touch Washington Democrats is more spending, more debt, and more crooked statistics,— Steel added.Democrats rejected Republican claims that their agenda has hurt the economy and instead blamed Republicans — in charge of Congress from 1995 to 2007 and the White House from 2001 to 2009 — for the current economic climate. “Republicans left the American people an economy that was losing hundreds of thousands of jobs, an out of control debt, a budget-busting deficit and a broken health care system,— said Doug Thornell, a spokesman for Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.). “Then they limped off the field to bicker, complain and carry the water for big special interests while Democrats fought to provide assistance for small businesses, tax relief for middle-class families and critical funding that saved and created jobs — measures that a broad range of economists say worked and staved off an economic calamity.—But while House Republicans may be expanding their line of attack, their colleagues in the Senate will remain squarely focused on health care reform through the end of the year. Senate Republicans plan to keep the heat on Democrats over the fiscal impact of the legislation.Republicans have been hammering Democrats over the bill’s $848 billion price tag for months, claiming the costs could run as high as $2.5 trillion dollars, as well as lead to cuts to Medicare and force states to expand Medicaid.According to GOP leadership aides, Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) last week reinforced those talking points, sending out a messaging “pocket card— to members to emphasize fiscal and economic effects of the measure. However, the card does not mention abortion or some of the other issues threatening to derail the bill.That is not to say that Senate Republicans will avoid partisanship altogether in the upcoming debate. Senate Republicans are unlikely to bring babies to the floor to make their point like Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) did while speaking against the House health care bill. But Alexander and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are expected to instruct GOP Senators to continue to criticize the length of the Senate bill and paint the measure as a “government takeover— of the nation’s health care system.Even as they focus on health care and jobs, Republicans in both chambers will be awaiting Obama’s announcement on his Afghanistan strategy Tuesday night. Republicans have charged Obama with taking too long to make a decision and plan to continue to urge the president to listen to the commanders on the ground. Gen. Stanley McChrystal and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry are expected to testify before key Congressional panels as early as this week.For months, House and Senate GOP leaders have urged Obama to adopt McChrystal’s recommendation to deploy an additional 40,000 troops to secure the region.Cantor said last week that many Members in his Conference would base their response to Obama’s strategy on McChrystal’s reaction, as well as whether it contains a counterinsurgency component and a recognition that Pakistan “is an increasing threat that will have to be dealt with,— Cantor said. Above all, McChrystal’s opinion is “the most important,— he said.