Parties Issue Their Recess Marching Orders

Posted June 30, 2010 at 6:06pm

If voters are confused about the difference between a Democratic or Republican-run Congress, the House campaign committees aim to spend the week away from Washington, D.C., defining what they stand for and whom they stand against.

The National Republican Congressional Committee will use the July Fourth district work period to try to turn the mundane House budget process into a winning campaign issue. Democrats are telling their candidates to focus on jobs and the economy and to argue that Republicans will make things worse if they capture the House in November.

Republican leaders contend they can easily tie the Democratic decision to forgo a budget for the next fiscal year with decisions that small-business owners and other voters make about money every day.

“This is not a niche issue,” NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) said. “People back home in every municipality, every company, even a small business has to have a budget.”

For two Democratic incumbents, the attacks will be personal.

The NRCC will launch an ad on Thursday attacking Budget Chairman John Spratt (D-S.C.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for failing to usher a budget through the House for the first time in three decades.

The ad features a green-tinted Spratt walking toward a camera while an ominous voice tells listeners to sign an online petition and “ask John Spratt: ‘Where is the budget?'”

“No federal budget means no long-term plan to cut spending, reduce our debt or create jobs,” says the ad, which will run on cable in the Charlotte, N.C., Columbia, S.C., and Florence/Myrtle Beach, S.C., media markets.

The NRCC will run a similar ad in Rep. Chet Edwards’ district next week. The Texas Democrat is a member of the Budget panel and faces a tough re-election in the fall.

Paul Lindsay, a spokesman for the NRCC, said the ads are part of a broader GOP message that Democrats should answer for their actions in Washington.

“Democrats will continue to be held accountable for what they’ve done in Washington, but they’re now also being rightfully called out for what they’re failing to do,” Lindsay said. “Look for Republican candidates to continue to point out that by failing to produce a budget, Democrats are missing an opportunity to provide the fiscal discipline that is needed to create jobs and grow the economy.”

In addition to the ads, GOP Congressional candidates will hold news conferences around the country to continue the narrative that a new crop of Republicans can bring back fiscal discipline to Washington.

“These Democrats are interesting — they keep doing what doesn’t work,” Sessions said. “That separates them from Republicans and business leaders who change when something isn’t working.”

Budget ranking member Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the public may not grasp the budget process but understands the concept.

“They don’t understand 302(a)’s and budget resolutions,” he said, referring to an obscure section of the Congressional Budget Act understood by only the wonkiest on Capitol Hill. “But they understand spending going on unchecked, and there’s no budgeting occurring.”

Ryan added: “That is just the icing on the cake of fiscal recklessness that has defined this session of Congress. And so yeah, I do believe it’s salient and it’s relevant and people understand it.”

While Republicans attack Democratic leaders and use the budget to help drive their recess message, Democrats will launch a similar offensive using comments made by a powerful GOP ranking member and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said candidates would be urged to tout their support for clean energy jobs while reminding voters of Rep. Joe Barton’s recent apology to BP.

Democrats have tried to cast the Texas Republican’s comments as broadly indicative of the GOP’s coziness with big business instead of a one-time gaffe.

Van Hollen said he is also encouraging candidates in competitive races to use recent House votes to overhaul the nation’s financial services industry and to close tax loopholes that make it easier to send jobs overseas to draw a bright line between themselves and Republicans, whom Democrats are casting as in league with big business at the expense of middle-class Americans.

“Voters are understandably focused on jobs and the economy,” Van Hollen said, adding that Democratic candidates should explain how the financial services overhaul would help prevent “meltdown on Wall Street from costing jobs on Main Street.”

Acknowledging that some moderate Democrats in competitive races have opposed the Wall Street bill, Van Hollen said, “Our advice is: ‘Listen to your constituents,'” adding that it was understandable that in some districts, the cost of supporting the bill might outweigh the benefits.

As part of that story line, Van Hollen said candidates also would be drawing attention to Boehner’s comments this week indicating he supported cutting Social Security to pay for the war in Afghanistan, saying those remarks helped to further crystallize “the very clear choice” voters face in November.

Ryan Rudominer, a spokesman for the DCCC, said, “Republican incumbents and candidates will be put on the spot as to answer whether they agree with Leader Boehner that Wall Street reform is unnecessary and Social Security should be cut.”