DCCC chairman: 'Worst may be yet to come' on budget negotiations

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) slammed Republicans in a memo Wednesday, warning that "the worst may be yet to come" in Congress with a possible showdown over the budget in the new year.

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The memo, issued at Wednesday's caucus meeting and obtained exclusively by The Hill, is part of an effort by the party to refocus attention on the possibility that another financial showdown this winter will again send the government into chaos.

The hope among Democrats is that such an outcome will again spark outrage against Republicans and neutralize some of the political damage done to Democrats by the faulty ObamaCare rollout.

In the memo, Israel charges that the "Republican Congress" has "repeatedly chosen reckless dysfunction and obstruction to President Obama instead of commonsense solutions."

"But right after the first of the year, they have the potential to make it even worse. This Republican Congress continues to hurtle the country toward yet another fiscal showdown, refusing to rule out another damaging government shutdown over defunding the Affordable Care Act and failing to produce a budget," he adds.

Israel goes on to outline Congress's "2013 record of failure,” highlighting policies that have been "left on the wreckage heap of this Republican House majority."

Those include immigration reform, which looks unlikely to pick up any traction in the House; the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which passed the Senate but won't be brought up for House consideration; a farm bill that includes food stamp funding; an increase in the minimum wage; and a budget that "takes a balanced approach" proposed by Democrats, which would include higher taxes on businesses and the wealthy.

He touts eight Democratic recruits as "problem-solvers ... who will serve as an antidote to this Reckless Republican Congress," all of whom he says were inspired to run in part due to the shutdown.

Those candidates include Pete Festersen, challenging Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.); Glen Gainer, challenging Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.); Patrick Henry Hays, running for retiring Rep. Tim Griffin's (R-Ark.) seat; Bill Hughes Jr., challenging Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.); James Lee Witt, running in Arkansas's 4th District; Alex Sink, running in the special for Florida's 13th District; Joe Bock, challenging Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.); and Aimee Belgard, running for retiring Rep. Jon Runyan's (R-N.J.) seat.

Polling showing Republicans taking much of the blame for the shutdown prompted optimism among Democrats at the party's chances of taking back the House, and even spurred some recruitment wins in races made competitive by the entry of strong candidates.

But persistent bad press and public backlash dogging the healthcare law threatens to derail Democrats' electoral prospects in 2014, when the party needs to pick up 17 seats to regain the majority in the House and has to play heavy defense in tough red states to keep its majority in the Senate.

Still, Israel suggested the upcoming fiscal fight — the budget conference committee meets on Wednesday, and their recommendations are due Dec. 13, with the current government funding measure scheduled to run out Jan. 15 — could again spell bad news for Republicans, sending the situation from "bad to worse."

"As the budget conference committee meets this week, House Republicans have shown no willingness to compromise or give up their reckless defunding demands on the Affordable Care Act and work on a balanced plan," he said.

"Instead, they have opposed raising any taxes on the biggest and most profitable corporations or the wealthy to help reduce the deficit – placing that burden squarely on the backs of seniors, students and the middle class.

"Their refusal to shift course in the budget conference committee will be yet another missed opportunity," Israel adds.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has pledged that there will be no more government shutdowns over ObamaCare, but a number of other rank-and-file Republicans have not ruled the possibility out.

There's no indication changes to ObamaCare are on the table in current budget negotiations, however.