Partisan Squabbles Over Economy, Oil Spill to Be on Parade During Recess

Posted July 3, 2010 at 12:02pm

The July Fourth break won’t be all about patriotic cheer for Members. Senate Republicans will continue assailing Democrats and the Obama administration for their handling of the economy, the Gulf oil spill cleanup, immigration, energy and health care.

Democrats will pursue a counter-offensive when they appear at community parades and backyard picnics, boasting of legislative accomplishments made this year and the measures that will be at the forefront after the holiday recess.

In particular, Democrats will hype the financial regulatory reform bill that will likely hit the Senate floor shortly after the break. Aides say the legislation, which still must go through one final vote in the Senate, is a strong campaign tool even though it has not been signed into law.

Democrats will continue to portray GOPers as siding with big banks by rhetorically asking Republicans “whose side are you on?” which became a rallying cry during the financial reform debate. But this time, Democrats will apply the whose-side-are-you-on mantra to job growth, the oil spill and campaign finance reform. Those topics align with legislative priorities Democrats have so far been unable to pursue, in some cases due to GOP blocking and in others their own intraparty squabbles.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has maintained he will bring up some form of energy legislation next month, but regular meetings, including a bipartisan gathering at the White House last week, have yet to show results.

Still, Democrats will tout the issue and make the case that the devastating oil spill off Louisiana’s coast demands legislative action on energy this year.

Republicans, meanwhile, will blast the Obama administration’s handling of the oil spill and charge that an energy debate should focus on Gulf Coast cleanup. Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) brought up the same point during the bipartisan energy meeting with Obama last week.

But for Republicans, no issue this recess will be as important as their messaging on deficit spending. GOP leaders sent Members home primed to blast “Democrats’ runaway spending” which “is a serious crisis that is ruining our children’s future,” according to a party document.

That rallying cry was only buttressed Friday after the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report revealed just 83,000 private-sector jobs were added in June, with an overall loss of 125,000 jobs nationwide.

“For all the billions of taxpayer dollars this Administration has thrown at our economic woes in hopes that problems would solve themselves, today we learned that America’s jobs deficit, like the federal budget deficit, continues to grow,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) said in a statement Friday. “The President’s tax-and-spend stimulus strategy clearly isn’t working.”

Senate Democrats unsuccessfully sought to clear an extension of unemployment benefits and a small-business lending measure before adjourning for the break. In both cases, Democrats blasted Republicans for blocking much-needed help for out-of-work Americans, and though they do not have the legislative accomplishments to tout back home, Democrats will surely condemn their GOP counterparts for obstruction.

But Democrats also will use this in-district work period to polish their talking points on such matters as the upcoming confirmation vote for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. President Barack Obama’s second high-court pick, Democrats will say, shows that the party “understand[s] the practical impact of the law on hardworking Americans,” according to a recess briefing document.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah) on Friday was the first Republican to come out against Kagan’s nomination, and his move extends the GOP’s message on judicial issues. In explaining his opposition, Hatch said in a statement that Kagan supports an “activist judicial philosophy” and “that her personal or political views drove her legal views.”

Obama also will stump in Nevada with Reid, who faces a serious challenge to win his fifth term in November. Obama will travel to the Silver State on Thursday and Friday, and according to a Las Vegas Sun report will appear at both private and public events with Reid.