House Dems, GOP Will Head Home With the Usual Talking Points

House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference June 12, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
National Journal
Billy House
July 30, 2014, 12:46 p.m.

Why is this Con­gress so, er, dys­func­tion­al? It’s a ques­tion that has be­come old and tired.

Yet House Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans are set to once again bring home their pre­dict­able an­swer — blam­ing each oth­er — in mes­saging strategies for the Au­gust and early-Septem­ber con­gres­sion­al re­cess.

Then again, who else would they blame — voters? Not likely.

“Ob­struc­tion­ists” is just one un­sur­pris­ing way Demo­crats plan to de­pict House Re­pub­lic­ans as they pre­pare to leave Wash­ing­ton on Thursday for what will be a key cam­paign stretch be­fore the Nov. 4 elec­tions.

A “Dear Col­league” let­ter from Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi, ac­com­pan­ied by Demo­crat­ic talk­ing points for her mem­bers, also casts the GOP as a bunch whose in­tern­al tur­moil dis­tracts from ef­forts in this di­vided Con­gress to deal with the eco­nomy and oth­er pri­or­it­ies of the Amer­ic­an people.

But Re­pub­lic­ans are ready to con­tin­ue em­phas­iz­ing they are merely a “minor­ity party in Demo­crat-run Wash­ing­ton.”

The open­ing page of their own mes­saging pack­et ar­gues that, in fact, the GOP is the party of solu­tions to cre­at­ing jobs, pro­mot­ing great­er op­por­tun­ity, and even free­dom.

“Un­for­tu­nately, dozens of these bills are stuck on Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id’s desk as he chooses day after day to put per­son­al polit­ics above help­ing people,” is a stand­ard line that is offered.

In these all-too-fa­mil­i­ar ways — per­haps re­flect­ing the level of ima­gin­a­tion that also has been un­able to forge more bi­par­tis­an ac­tion — House Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans head in­to the re­cess equipped by their party lead­ers with pre­fab ideas for hold­ing events, writ­ing press re­leases and an­ti­cip­ated press in­quir­ies, and hold­ing loc­al-is­sue roundtables.

The rank-and-file mem­bers don’t have to use any of the ma­ter­i­als in the com­mu­nic­a­tions pack­ets dis­trib­uted this week, and many will choose to wing it. But for mem­bers wobbly-kneed in try­ing to ex­plain Wash­ing­ton to their con­stitu­ents, al­most none of their cam­paign­ing back home has to be left to their ima­gin­a­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to na­tion­al polling, these mes­saging ef­forts will come as this Con­gress con­tin­ues to garner low ap­prov­al rat­ings. One re­cent poll con­duc­ted Ju­ly 7-10 by Gal­lup showed that only 15 per­cent of those sur­veyed ap­prove of how Con­gress is do­ing its job — al­most un­changed from a find­ing in June.

Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats ap­prove of Con­gress at sim­il­arly (low) levels — 17 per­cent and 16 per­cent, re­spect­ively, ac­cord­ing to Gal­lup. In a news re­lease, Gal­lup Seni­or Ed­it­or Jeff Jones says that their find­ings sug­gest Con­gress is a “polit­ic­al orphan” that neither Re­pub­lic­ans nor Demo­crats will ad­opt as their own.

But on Thursday, mem­bers of Con­gress will be­gin their re­cess. And so, the lead­ers have armed them with some of­fens­ive and de­fens­ive rhet­or­ic.

On the Demo­crat­ic side, Pelosi and oth­er party lead­ers sug­gest that each week of Au­gust be giv­en a cer­tain theme, “to co­ordin­ate our events and amp­li­fy our mes­sage.” For in­stance, the week of Aug. 3 to Aug. 9 would be de­voted to un­veil­ing the party’s “Middle Class Jump­start, and em­phas­iz­ing rais­ing the min­im­um wage.”

The next week could be de­voted to events tied to the party’s jobs agenda, the Demo­crats’ so-called “Make it in Amer­ica” ini­ti­at­ive. The week of Aug. 17-23 could be ded­ic­ated to “Af­ford­able Edu­ca­tion to Keep Amer­ica #1.” And the pack­et says the fi­nal week in Au­gust could em­phas­ize the Demo­crats’ eco­nom­ic agenda for wo­men, “When Wo­men Suc­ceed, Amer­ic­an Suc­ceeds.”

The Demo­crats’ ma­ter­i­als do not delve much in­to the Af­ford­able Care Act — or re­peated Re­pub­lic­an at­tempts to undo or al­ter it. But the talk­ing points do sug­gest that mem­bers could hold a press con­fer­ence and events tied to oth­er health is­sues, such as their Healthy Fam­il­ies Act al­low­ing paid sick leave for moth­ers with sick chil­dren at home, or the Healthy Fam­il­ies Act, which would set a na­tion­al paid sick days stand­ard — al­low­ing work­ers to earn up to sev­en job-pro­tec­ted paid sick days each year.

Writes Pelosi in her “Dear Col­league” let­ter, “Demo­crats must present solu­tions to cre­ate op­por­tun­ity for our con­stitu­ents and draw stark con­trasts with House Re­pub­lic­ans’ dys­func­tion and dis­trac­tion.”

But the word “solu­tions” is also a main theme of the mes­saging road map giv­en this week to House Re­pub­lic­ans by GOP Con­fer­ence Chair Cathy Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers. In fact, the pack­et it­self is titled, “Amer­ic­an Solu­tions: The House Re­pub­lic­an Plan for Jobs Op­por­tun­ity and Free­dom.”

The mes­saging ma­ter­i­als in­clude lists of Re­pub­lic­an le­gis­la­tion geared to­ward the en­vir­on­ment, con­sumers, taxes, de­fense, na­tion­al se­cur­ity, and oth­er is­sues.

Re­pub­lic­an ac­com­plish­ments named to brag about touch on a num­ber of Obama­care is­sues, in­clud­ing a re­peal of the small-busi­ness “1099” pa­per­work man­date of the health care law and en­act­ing sav­ings from oth­er as­pects of the law.

And in an era where Re­pub­lic­ans have been bashed as ob­struc­tion­ists, an­oth­er big talk­ing point is that Re­pub­lic­ans “have pro­tec­ted 99 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans from per­man­ent tax hikes,” and en­acted “the most sig­ni­fic­ant spend­ing re­duc­tions in mod­ern his­tory — more sig­ni­fic­ant than un­der Pres­id­ent Re­agan and Speak­er [Thomas “Tip”] O’Neill and Pres­id­ent Clin­ton and Speak­er [Newt] Gin­grich.”

So, too, do the talk­ing points cred­it House Re­pub­lic­ans for hav­ing taken “[a]ggress­ive over­sight of the Obama Ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing [on] Benghazi and the Taliban pris­on­er ex­change.”

Some of the GOP re­cess-event sug­ges­tions are quite ba­sic. For in­stance, one idea: “Head to a city in your dis­trict and stop by a num­ber of small busi­nesses along ‘Main Street.’ “

What We're Following See More »
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
3 days ago

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.”

UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
4 days ago

"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.

Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
4 days ago

"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."

Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
4 days ago
California: It’s Not Over Yet
4 days ago

"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%.