Dems, GOP hone messages for final campaign push

Democrats and Republicans are using Congress’s final week of work before the midterm elections to make their closing arguments for why they should control the Senate in 2015.

Senate Democrats are emphasizing their “Fair Shot” agenda, forcing Republicans to vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act and a constitutional amendment intended to stop wealthy donors from spending unlimited amounts on elections.

Democrats might cap the week by trying to revive legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

While the efforts have attracted little media attention, Democratic senators said they would be talking about the votes on the campaign trail.

“The closing argument for Democrats is going to be the economic issues in our Fair Shot [agenda]. Our candidates are using them with great success. They may not be the national headlines but they’re working in the campaigns,” said Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Crying on TV doesn't qualify Kimmel to set nation's gun agenda Trump knocks ‘fake’ news coverage of his trip to Puerto Rico MORE (D-N.Y.), who is tasked with coordinating the floor agenda with the party’s political messaging.

“Republican candidates are on the defensive. A few of them have come out for minimum wage. A few of them have come out for equal pay,” he said.

Dan Sullivan, the Republican Senate candidate in Alaska, now says he supports raising the minimum wage. In Arkansas, Rep. Tom CottonTom CottonHouse bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Republicans jockey for position on immigration The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE, the GOP challenger to Sen. Mark PryorMark PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (D), backs raising the state minimum to $8.50 an hour.  

While Democrats are focused on pocketbook issues, Republicans are talking about getting the Senate to work again.

GOP senators are vowing to act on the dozens of stalled jobs bills passed by the House and say a Republican majority in the upper chamber would put a check on President Obama’s agenda.

“There’s only one thing that can be done in 2014 to begin to take America in a different direction, and that’s to change the Senate,” Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGun proposal picks up GOP support Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform MORE (Ky.) said.

He said Republicans would act immediately in the majority to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline and repeal the medical-device tax.

“Those are the kinds of things that we’ve not been able to vote on in the Senate for years that the American people might like us to address,” he said.

McConnell on Wednesday dismissed the Democrats’ September agenda as a series of “show votes” and called for the chamber to vote on new rules being promulgated by the administration to limit emissions from coal-fired power plants.

In an op-ed published by Fox News, Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynGun proposal picks up GOP support House bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Republicans jockey for position on immigration MORE (Texas) laid out the agenda for Senate Republicans should they win the majority in November.

“First and foremost, we have long stressed the need to pass a pro-growth, fiscally responsible budget that actually cuts spending and reforms government,” he wrote.

He listed Keystone, regulatory reform that “fosters economic growth,” ending the era of financial institutions that are “too big to fail” and tax reform that lowers rates and simplifies “the entire system.”

“People are seeing Republicans have a better chance of being in the majority and they want to know what are our ideas going forward,” he told The Hill.

Senate Democratic candidates have latched on to different pieces of their leadership’s agenda.

“I speak on behalf of every North Carolinian, especially middle-class families. Everybody needs to have an opportunity to get ahead, not just the wealthy,” said Sen. Kay HaganKay HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE (D-N.C.), who faces a tough reelection race.

“I can’t imagine why anybody would not support letting students refinance their student debt. This is something impacting so many families,” she added, referring to a Republican objection to holding a vote this week on the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act.

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Energy: Dems take on Trump's chemical safety pick Dem senator slams Trump for dedicating golf trophy to hurricane victims Dem senator compares Trump to Marie Antoinette MORE (D), who is running for reelection in Oregon, has stressed the support for Republicans from wealthy donors such as Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists.

“In Oregon, it’s a battle between Oregon values and Koch brothers values,” he said.

He said his final pitch to voters would include the importance of “living-wage jobs” and “a fair shot of going to college with affordable loans.”

Democrats are feeling more confident about their chances in November, with recent polls showing Hagan building a lead and the media reporting that groups backed by the Koch brothers have pulled out of Oregon.

One senior Democratic aide described himself as “buoyant” about the upcoming election, after having experienced some “dark moments” a few weeks ago.

Some vulnerable Democrats, however, have distanced themselves from the party message in Washington.

“My opening argument, my middle argument and my closing argument is this race is about leadership for Louisiana, effective leadership. Seniority matters. Clout matters. The clout that the people of Louisiana have gained should not be easily given up or given away. That’s all my message is about,” said Sen. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuYou want to recall John McCain? Good luck, it will be impossible CNN producer on new O'Keefe video: Voters are 'stupid,' Trump is 'crazy' CNN's Van Jones: O'Keefe Russia 'nothingburger' video 'a hoax' MORE (D-La.), who ranks among the most endangered incumbents and is now chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Democrats argue they have stuck consistently to their message this year while Republicans have veered from topic to topic.

“We made a calculation about what the races are about and have stuck to it,” a Democratic leadership aide said.

The aide said Republicans pledged to make the election about ObamaCare, but then turned to scandals plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs before pouncing on the national security threats posed by Russia and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Republicans say their election messaging has had a consistent thread: Opposing Obama’s agenda.

“My closing argument is my opponent is one more vote for Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Interior moves to delay Obama’s methane leak rule MORE’s agenda and I’m one more vote for a new Republican majority to move the country in a new, more conservative direction. That’s the whole issue,” Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderChildren’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Schumer calls for attaching ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance MORE (R-Tenn.) said.