Republicans Have the Edge in the House, Top Democrat Concedes

DCCC Chairman Steve Israel recognizes the “tough climate” for Democrats, but says that could change.

Rep. Steve Israel, DCCC Chairman Interview Goldmacher
National Journal
Alex Roarty
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Alex Roarty
April 2, 2014, 7:21 a.m.

The man in charge of the House Demo­crats polit­ic­al com­mit­tee ac­know­ledged Wed­nes­day that — for now — the na­tion­al polit­ic­al en­vir­on­ment fa­vors Re­pub­lic­ans, but he said he’s hope­ful that the Af­ford­able Care Act’s im­prov­ing for­tunes and the GOP agenda can bright­en his party’s out­look by Novem­ber.  

“I’ll stip­u­late it’s a tough cli­mate for us right now,” said Steve Is­rael, chair­man of the Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, speak­ing dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at the Na­tion­al Press Club. “It’s a tough cli­mate.”

Obama­care’s haphaz­ard im­ple­ment­a­tion and Pres­id­ent Obama’s sink­ing ap­prov­al rat­ings have com­bined to pro­duce an un­in­vit­ing en­vir­on­ment for the party, in a midterm year in which the elect­or­ate nat­ur­ally skews Re­pub­lic­an. House Demo­crats are not ex­pec­ted to ser­i­ously chal­lenge for con­trol of the House ma­jor­ity — they would need to win a net of 17 seats — and Is­rael de­clined to pre­dict that his party would do so.

But the New York Demo­crat said the cli­mate can change quickly, jok­ing that dur­ing Oc­to­ber’s gov­ern­ment shut­down, ana­lysts had pre­dicted that Demo­crats might re­take the House.

“I re­mem­ber dur­ing shut­down, some were sug­gest­ing we not only could win the House, but we could win 50 seats,” said Is­rael. “I nev­er be­lieved that for a minute. Three weeks later, after the roll out of a web­site, some of the same people say­ing we would win 50 seats were say­ing we’d lose 50 seats.”

He ad­ded, “Our job is not to worry about the cli­mate, be­cause we have no con­trol over the gen­er­ic cli­mate, we have to worry about what’s in our con­trol and mas­ter what’s in our con­trol.”

Co­in­cid­ing with the re­lease of Rep. Paul Ry­an’s budget this week, House Demo­crats are ag­gress­ively push­ing the no­tion that the pro­pos­al, which would cut spend­ing and even­tu­ally set up a op­tion­al vouch­er sys­tem for fu­ture Medi­care be­ne­fi­ciar­ies, will cripple Re­pub­lic­ans with middle-class voters. And he ar­gued that with Obama­care reach­ing its sign-up goal this week, voters will be even less en­thu­si­ast­ic about re­peal­ing the law.

“We’re go­ing on of­fense for what re­peal means for the middle class,” Is­rael said.

In a state­ment, a spokes­wo­man for the Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee said Demo­crats have prom­ised Ry­an’s budget would be a win­ning is­sue in pre­vi­ous elec­tions. 

“In 2012 - with Pres­id­ent Obama on the bal­lot - Steve Is­rael called Paul Ry­an the Demo­crats’ ‘ma­jor­ity maker,’ yet his party didn’t even come close,” said An­drea Bozek, NR­CC spokes­wo­man. “We hope Demo­crats keep run­ning on their sup­port of Obama­Care’s drastic cuts to Medi­care, op­pos­i­tion to a bal­anced budget, and sup­port for an un­pop­u­lar Pres­id­ent.”

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