By Mike Lillis - 03/20/13 09:00 AM EDT
House Democrats intensified their efforts Tuesday to turn the House Republican budget into a weapon against the GOP.
In a series of press conferences, floor speeches, YouTube videos and cable news interviews, the Democrats said the Republicans’ budget plan, unveiled last week by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), would hurt the poor, women and minorities — all demographics that propelled President Obama back into the White House and helped his party pick up seats in both congressional chambers last year.
Still, in light of the 2012 election results, the Republicans’ strategy to double-down on their austerity message is a gamble. And Democrats are licking their chops at the thought of running their 2014 campaign around the Ryan budget’s proposed sharp cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and a long list of domestic discretionary programs.
Foreshadowing the coming campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) released a YouTube video Tuesday featuring former House Republicans who were defeated last November after the DCCC ran budget-focused ads against them.
“In 2012, Democrats knocked out 16 incumbent House Republicans who voted for the Ryan budget,” the video concludes. “Get ready for more in 2014.”
Ryan’s 2014 budget would eliminate deficit spending in a decade, largely by repealing healthcare coverage expansion under Obama’s reform law, scaling back Medicare benefits and slashing discretionary spending that related to education, research, food safety and a long list of other domestic programs. The budget blueprint does not raise new tax revenue.
GOP leaders have argued that the drastic cuts are necessary to rein in “runaway” federal spending, and they’re banking that voters will agree.
Ryan acknowledged that his budget is similar to the plan he pushed last year as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick. But he also suggested that the election results were a reflection not of the GOP’s push for austerity, but of their ineffectiveness selling the austerity message to the public.
“The election didn’t go our way. Believe me, I know what that feels like,” he said last week, unveiling his plan. “That means we surrender our principles? That means we stop believing in what we believe in?
“Elections do have consequences,” he added. “This is our offer.”
Democrats have been on the attack ever since, and with the House preparing to vote on the Ryan budget this week, they’re only amplifying that criticism.
“This new Ryan Republican budget looks a lot like the old Romney/Ryan Republican budget that Americans less than six months ago rejected at the polls in November 2012,” Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, charged Tuesday.
“The Republican budget is the same baby with a new diaper, and eventually this diaper will have to be changed once again,” echoed Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
The Democrats are not shy about the fact that their plans would not balance the budget quickly.
“Our highest priority is putting people back to work,” Van Hollen said Tuesday.
A series of recent polls is sending mixed signals about which strategy the public favors.
One survey commissioned by the YG Network, a nonprofit policy shop run by a former aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), bolsters the Democrats’ argument. It found that voters are more concerned about their own economic security than they are deficit spending by a count of 38 to 20 percent. The poll was conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, a Virginia-based Republican polling firm.
“It is important to note that ‘economy and jobs’ is almost twice that of ‘deficit and debt,’ ” the poll report reads.
A recent poll by The Hill, however, indicated that voters favor the Republicans’ idea of balancing the budget quickly without tax hikes, versus the Democrats’ plans for a slower approach that includes new tax revenue.
Yet The Hill poll also suggested that voters are less supportive of federal cuts when the details of those cuts are revealed. For example, respondents indicated that they oppose Obama’s decision to scale back White House tours to save taxpayer money.