Unions liken Boehner to Mr. Potter in ‘cliff’ drama

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The ads from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the National Education Association (NEA) and the Service Employees International Union continue an aggressive lobbying push from unions on the fiscal cliff.

The six-figure ad buy will begin this week and run through the weekend, according to Mary Kusler, NEA’s director of government relations. Along with a run on national cable, the ads will also target only House Republicans, specifically Reps. Rick Crawford (Ark.), Mike Coffman (Colo.), John Fleming (La.), Erik Paulsen (Minn.) and Scott Rigell (Va.).

In two previous rounds of television and radio ads on the fiscal cliff, the trio of unions has targeted House Republicans and Senate Democrats in an attempt to pull the deficit talks to more liberal terrain. 

“Focusing on the House is giving Speaker Boehner the room to negotiate. … We want a fair and balanced deal that protects seniors and children and asks the wealthy to pay their fair share,” Kusler said. “The Speaker believes he doesn't have that leeway that and we are seeing that play out over the past 24 hours.”

Kusler was referring to Boehner’s “Plan B” proposal, which would raise tax rates for those making $1 million or more a year.

The union representatives have been adamant that a deficit deal should raise taxes without making changes to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, but the White House seems to have other ideas.

President Obama, in search of a deal with Boehner, has proposed revising the way that inflation is calculated for benefit programs, including Social Security, by using a “chained” consumer price index (CPI) — a move that would cut benefits over time. 

Labor, a key Democratic ally that turned out voters for President Obama’s reelection bid, is firmly against any cuts to Social Security benefits. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement Tuesday called on Congress to "reject any cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, or Medicare benefits, regardless of who proposes them." 

But union officials are waiting to see what Obama and Boehner's final fiscal cliff package will look like before weighing in against it. 

“We are waiting for the final deal at the end of the day to come to a decision where we stand on behalf of our members. … Chained CPI, while a technical change, would have real impact on the beneficiaries,” Kusler said. “We would never advocate on behalf of it. This is all about negotiation, so we have to wait to see what's in the final deal.”