Dems eye vacation strategy for 'do-nothing' Congress

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House Democrats will use every tool at their disposal to try to keep the Republicans from leaving Washington for the August break, according to a member of the leadership team. 

Congress is slated to adjourn for its five-week recess on July 31 – a schedule many members want to keep to maximize their campaign time ahead of November's elections.

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But Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), said party leaders will attempt to extend the recess at every turn to highlight the long list of issues the Republicans have refused to consider ahead of the break.

"We're likely to use all the tools that are available to us to urge Republicans to stay until we get our priorities done," Israel said. 

Asked what strategies he's eyeing, Israel was elusive. "All the tools that are available to us," he repeated.

From a practical standpoint, the strategy is near certain to fail, as the minority Democrats simply lack the votes to block the adjournment motion that will launch the August break. But politically, party leaders are hoping that making noise as Congress leaves town for the long recess will paint the Republicans as a party that prioritizes vacation above the unfinished business confronting the House.

Behind President Obama, the Democrats have been touting a long list of legislative priorities they hope will resonate at the polls in November, including proposals to raise the minimum wage, extend emergency unemployment benefits, overhaul the nation's immigration system and provide equal pay to women in the workplace.

Those proposals have roughly no chance of passing through the Republican-controlled House – particularly just a few months ahead of the mid-terms – but they do poll well with voters, leading Democrats to trumpet them every chance they get.

The adjournment vote presents one such opportunity, and some Democrats aren't waiting even that long to frame the looming recess as a partisan issue.

"We are about embark on a one-month legislative recess as the House Republican leadership continues to block action on legislation to create jobs and grow the middle class," Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) said on the chamber floor Thursday. "Instead of taking those up, we're about to leave town for a month of undeserved time off."

The Democrats precise strategy appears to be a work in progress. Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), head of the House Democratic Caucus, said he's still hopeful the House has time this month to push through "some of the big things … that have been percolating," including a border funding bill and the reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program.

He suggested the Democrats’ political strategy surrounding the adjournment would come afterwards. 

"Whether or not there's any cooperation to try to put any of those things on the floor [is] unclear," Becerra said. "And how we would respond if things were shut down on those votes [is] unclear." 

Still, the Democrats' messaging strategy, unveiled last week, attempts to draw clear distinctions between what they consider the Republicans' "do-nothing" plan and the Democrats' specific economic priorities. It's a strategy Israel says will dominate the next month.

"August will be about our action versus their inaction," Israel said. "We'll be talking about how they have stalled on everything, and we have a specific series of initiatives to jumpstart the middle class. That is going to be August."