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Congress / CONGRESS

Recess Spin Battle: Debt Versus Jobs

Hopeful: DCCC Chairman Steve Israel thinks Democrats can win the recess spin wars.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

August 2, 2011

The political guns of August are already ablazin’, as both House Democrats and Republicans have gone home to their districts armed by leaders with distinct messaging strategies.

Neither party regards the debt-ceiling resolution as a great deal. But it’s a done deal. And from the early talking points, it’s one that Republicans view as tilted more their way.

“It isn’t what we’d written if conservatives ran Washington, but it’s a step in the right direction,” says Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a note to Republican supporters, a theme that rank-and-file members are expected to emulate.


(DOCUMENT: House GOP's Recess Talking Points)

Not only was default averted, Boehner argues, but trillions of dollars in spending cuts, new spending caps, advancement of a balanced-budget amendment, and promises of no new tax hikes were also achieved.

However, a dispute has emerged between Boehner and a White House economic adviser over their differing interpretations on whether a bicameral, bipartisan committee created under the new law might not be precluded from imposing some new tax increases.

Democrats appear eager to change the subject from the debt talks, or at least to go back to two more-familiar topics–-job creation and GOP efforts to change Medicare.

(DOCUMENT: House Dems' Recess Talking Points)

According to their talking-point materials, they will assert that Democrats during the debt talks “kept our promise to protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security beneficiaries.” There is a scenario, though, where Medicare providers could fall in line for an automatic cut of up to their 2 percent of their funding.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday during a news conference that although Democrats were pressed, in her words, to swallow a “bitter pill” and “save the day” by helping to pass the legislation to avert default, she does not intend to keep talking about its details over the next weeks and month.

“Enough talk about debt,” she said. Rather, Democrats are saying they’re moving into “Accountability August.”

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., envisions the weeks ahead as ones where Democrats will see to it that House Republicans are pressed “at town meetings and everywhere they go, from one end of their district to the other, why did you vote to end my Medicare, when you could have stood with me; why did you stand with the big oil companies … to protect corporate tax loopholes?”

A main theme of the Democratic talking points is a return to attacks on Republicans for the passage of Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget blueprint, described as tantamount to ending Medicare. Under the plan, government would no longer cover seniors’ health care expenses in the same way, eventually converting Medicare to a voucher-style system.

Democrats want to hit Republicans on the continued high unemployment. Members are being told to underscore the party’s own job-creating agenda, including their “Make It In America” effort, while trying to depict House Republicans as in charge for more than 200 days and doing little, if anything, to create jobs.

But Republicans aren’t ready to take that hit--at least alone--suggesting in their material that members remind constituents that under President Obama, unemployment has been at or above 8 percent for 29 months --the level the White House said unemployment would never reach if the stimulus bill was passed. This is the worst unemployment stretch since the Great Depression, the talking points note.

It is from there that Republicans are advised to underscore the “solution for reviving our economy is straightforward: cut wasteful government spending and unnecessary regulations to help the economy grow and help businesses create jobs.”

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