Senate Dems Very Carefully Plot 2014 Strategy

With midterms ahead, Democrats are avoiding divisive issues — and, in some cases, President Obama.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: (L-R) U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) arrive at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol January 16, 2014 in Washington, DC. Reid and other Senate Democratic leaders spoke on pending legislation to extend unemployment insurance. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
National Journal
Michael Catalini
Jan. 30, 2014, 2:48 p.m.

Mind­ful of com­pet­it­ive races in con­ser­vat­ive states, Sen­ate Demo­crats are build­ing out an agenda for the rest of 2014, tak­ing up the pop­u­list parts of Pres­id­ent Obama’s State of the Uni­on and lay­ing aside is­sues that stir in­tra­party di­vi­sion.

Ex­posed on Obama­care and saddled with a still-slug­gish eco­nomy, Demo­crats have fo­cused on pock­et­book is­sues like the min­im­um wage and un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance. They said for weeks they would wait un­til the pres­id­ent’s ad­dress to lay out their full 2014 game plan.

Now they are ex­pand­ing their agenda to ac­com­mod­ate a gender wage-gap bill and will con­tin­ue to hash out the de­tails of their strategy at their an­nu­al re­treat next week at Na­tion­als Park.

“We are cer­tainly go­ing to be fo­cused on, along with the pres­id­ent, mak­ing sure the eco­nomy really works for every­one, the ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who along with Sen. Chuck Schu­mer of New York is or­gan­iz­ing the event again this year.

But don’t ex­pect Demo­crats to shep­herd each piece of the pres­id­ent’s agenda through the cham­ber. Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, an op­pon­ent of fast-track­ing trade bills through Con­gress, dif­fers with Obama over the bi­par­tis­an Trade Pro­mo­tion Au­thor­ity le­gis­la­tion that House Ways and Means Chair­man Dave Camp and Sen­ate Fin­ance Chair­man Max Baucus un­veiled a few weeks ago.

Like­wise on Ir­an, a num­ber of Demo­crats have joined with Re­pub­lic­an Mark Kirk of Illinois seek­ing tight­er sanc­tions; though, un­like with TPA, Re­id has been will­ing up to this point to toe the White House’s line.

Des­pite the dif­fer­ences, Demo­crats are con­scious of present­ing a united front, a key con­trast with Re­pub­lic­ans whose split over le­gis­lat­ive tac­tics in the fall res­ul­ted in the shut­down and debt-ceil­ing crisis.

Demo­crats are not im­mune from dis­agree­ments with their col­leagues, though. A hand­ful of Demo­crats — Mark Be­gich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Car­o­lina, Mary Landrieu of Louisi­ana, and Mark Pry­or of Arkan­sas — face gruel­ing reelec­tion con­tests in red states, and have been eager to con­trast them­selves with Obama and their lib­er­al col­leagues.

With the Sen­ate ma­jor­ity po­ten­tially on the line, Demo­crats are hon­ing a strategy aimed at avoid­ing di­vis­ive is­sues and em­bra­cing poll-tested meas­ures. So is there any con­cern that pur­su­ing Obama’s agenda could hurt vul­ner­able Demo­crats? Demo­crats say the an­swer de­pends on the is­sue.

“If we’re talk­ing about the min­im­um wage and col­lege af­ford­ab­il­ity and the long-term un­em­ployed, that’s an is­sue that cuts across every state,” said Sen. Chris Murphy of Con­necti­c­ut. “With those three is­sues? No.”

Demo­crat­ic lead­ers also are re­ject­ing the no­tion that the taint of push­ing the Obama agenda could hurt in the midterms, which do not his­tor­ic­ally fa­vor the party of pres­id­ents in their sixth year in of­fice.

“Just the op­pos­ite is true,” said As­sist­ant Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Dick Durbin. “Every one of them has said this is bring­ing it down to middle-class is­sues. Help­ing them earn more and be more se­cure are win­ning is­sues in Novem­ber.”

To that end, Re­id plans to bring a bill to the floor soon that Sen. Bar­bara Mikul­ski of Mary­land in­tro­duced a year ago. The Paycheck Fair­ness Act has 50 co­spon­sors, but Re­pub­lic­ans already blocked it once be­fore, sug­gest­ing that Demo­crats don’t ex­pect to see the le­gis­la­tion be­come law.

In­deed, House and Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans are not likely to give the sig­na­ture Demo­crat­ic ini­ti­at­ives the sup­port they’ll need to put them on the pres­id­ent’s desk.

Plus, des­pite a re­cent out­break of bi­par­tis­an co­oper­a­tion on budget and spend­ing meas­ures, Demo­crats are gear­ing up for a fight over the debt ceil­ing, warn­ing Re­pub­lic­ans they will not ne­go­ti­ate spend­ing cuts in ex­change for hik­ing the lim­it.

Bash­ing the GOP over the debt ceil­ing has be­come as much an ar­row in the Demo­crats’ polit­ic­al quiver as they ex­pect the eco­nom­ic is­sues will be. Budget Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Patty Mur­ray of Wash­ing­ton has re­cently in­creased her pleas to Re­pub­lic­ans not to hold the debt lim­it “host­age,” and on Wed­nes­day Demo­crats met with Treas­ury Sec­ret­ary Jac­ob Lew be­hind closed doors in the Cap­it­ol to dis­cuss the high-stakes dead­line, which he said could be reached in late Feb­ru­ary or early March, ac­cord­ing to Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic aides.

“We just had a budget agree­ment. We have ap­pro­pri­ations; we de­term­ined where our spend­ing is go­ing to be,” Mur­ray said Wed­nes­day. “We have to pay our bills for that.”

What We're Following See More »
BACKING OUT ON BERNIE
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

AKNOWLEDGING THE INEVITABLE
UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Source:
AP KEEPING COUNT
Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Source:
TRUMP FLOATED IDEA ON JIMMY KIMMEL’S SHOW
Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
2 days ago
THE LATEST
CAMPAIGNS INJECTED NEW AD MONEY
California: It’s Not Over Yet
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.

Source:
×