Pelosi arms Dems against Ryan budget

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is arming Democrats in their fight against the Republicans' latest budget proposal as Congress heads into the long, spring recess.

Democratic leaders have decided that hammering the 2015 budget plan from Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is a winner. With that in mind, Pelosi's office has issued an attack guide to each member of her caucus highlighting provisions of the GOP plan that Democrats think will generate the most backlash from voters.

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The strategy is designed to contrast the sharp differences between the parties' economic visions for the country, but also to steer the campaign debate away from President Obama's healthcare law. That law remains a political liability for Democrats in much of the country, particularly the purple districts that will be the most hotly contested in November.

Gallup poll results released Friday found that 54 percent of respondents disapprove of ObamaCare, versus 43 percent who support it. Those numbers indicate that the enrollment surge at the end of last month may have done little to change the public's view of the law.

With Friday's retirement of embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who oversaw the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act's online insurance exchange, Republicans are amplifying their long-held criticisms of Obama's signature domestic achievement in hopes it will be the defining issue of November's elections.

Democrats have other ideas, trying to direct the national debate instead toward jobs and the economy, where the Ryan budget will be front and center.

Pelosi this week characterized the Democrats' focus on the Ryan plan as "a moral imperative … to make sure that the public knows how serious they [Republicans] are about this budget."

"Some people think it's so ridiculous to dismiss as a joke," she said just before the House recessed on Thursday. "It's not funny. It's deadly serious. And it's not good for children and other living things."

The House passed the GOP's budget on Thursday by a count of 219-205, with every voting Democrat opposed.

To enhance her party's attacks on the Ryan plan, Pelosi's office issued a sample press release to all House Democrats this week, spotlighting the provisions they think will reverberate mostly loudly with voters.

The two-page document emphasizes Ryan's cuts to popular programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Head Start, while inviting individual members to quantify the effects of those changes in their districts in hopes of generating local press coverage during the two-week break.

The document is the latest step in an evolving effort by Democratic leaders to condense Ryan's sweeping budget plan into digestible pieces designed to energize voters at the polls this year.

"When you have a budget that hurts the middle class specifically to enrich the already rich, it plays in every battleground district in America," Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told The Hill Thursday. "It may not play in bright-red districts, but it plays in right-of-center districts and left-of-center districts. And that's our battleground."

Although attacks on similar Ryan budgets over the last two election cycles have failed to propel the Democrats back into control of the House, Israel rejected the notion that the strategy is ineffective.

He highlighted the Democrats' 2012 victories over former-GOP Reps. Bob Dold (Ill.), Mary Bono Mack (Calif.) and Nan Hayworth (N.Y.) as evidence that attacking the Republican budget can pay dividends.

"I would think that they would say it had a devastating result," Israel said.