By Josephine Hearn - 11/08/05 12:00 AM EST
House Democrats and their allies are planning a weeklong assault on the GOP’s proposed budget plan, hoping to kill an impending vote on budget cuts and highlight internal division within the Republican Conference.
Buoyed by a series of recent victories — from scuttling the administration’s Social Security overhaul to securing a staffing change on the House Ethics committee — Democrats hope to build public discontent with the cuts through a series of coordinated floor speeches, press events and a “mock hearing” led by the House Budget Committee’s top Democrat.
Meanwhile, Democratically-aligned groups have been sponsoring ad buys and holding press conferences in targeted Republicans’ home districts, hoping to pick off enough moderate Republicans to prevent GOP leaders from bringing the budget cuts to the floor Thursday.
Rep. John Spratt (S.C.), ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, plans to hold the mock hearing tomorrow. Many of the caucus’s most senior members, such as Reps. Charlie Rangel (N.Y.), George Miller (Calif.) and John Dingell (Mich.), will likely participate in the hearing, which will probably take place in one of the rooms in the Capitol controlled by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rather than the committee’s usual room in the Rayburn House Office Building, said a spokesman for Spratt.
Headlining the event will be Georgetown University freshman Reggie Douglas, a former member of his high school’s NAACP board, who will talk about how the proposed budget measures will affect him personally. Joining Douglas on the witness stand will be representatives from various special-interest groups addressing potential cuts to child support, agriculture programs and Medicaid.
At the mock hearing, Democrats plan to argue that the spending cuts will be used to fund tax cuts rather than reduce the deficit; that the cuts will threaten vital services such as Medicaid, student loans, child support and food stamps, some of which benefit hurricane victims; and that the budget resolution will still increase the deficit even after these cuts are taken into account.
Democrats on both sides of the Capitol have periodically tried to hold events that appear to be congressionally sanctioned hearings even though only Democrats participate in them as a way to work around congressional rules that prevent the minority from organizing official hearings.
A spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) took a dim view of the Democrats’ tactics.
“The Democrat leaders are choosing to scare the American people rather than telling the truth and giving them positive ideas,” said spokesman Ron Bonjean.
“Continuing the obstructionist angle doesn’t buy them cover when they can’t offer or agree on their own priorities.”
Aside from the mock hearing, other members are heading up separate events this week.
Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and possibly the Congressional Black Caucus will hold an event on the Capitol steps to talk about “Republicans’ misplaced priorities,” according to a House Democratic aide.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and members of the caucus’s 30-Something Working Group are planning to serve lunch at a school in Washington to call attention to Republicans’ planned cuts in the school-lunch program.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) will host a conference call for reporters with a Wisconsin college student who is poised to lose student financial aid under the GOP plan.
On the floor, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) plans to coordinate a series of one-minute and special-order speeches throughout the week lambasting the budget plan.
Democrats will likely criticize the cuts using variations on internal talking points distributed last week.
According to Pelosi’s Morning Message Points from last Thursday, Democrats will tie the budget cuts to the plight of Hurricane Katrina survivors.
“Republicans are moving forward to impose even greater sacrifice on Katrina families with a fiscally irresponsible budget that cuts student loans, healthcare and rural programs,” read one bullet point.
The Emergency Campaign for America’s Priorities, a labor-funded group aligned with Democrats, continues to pursue moderate Republicans in their districts, targeting 38 lawmakers in 16 states with press conferences and ads.