July up for grabs

Lawmakers, whether they’re on Capitol Hill or the campaign trail, regularly aim to “win the week” by besting their opponents on policy and/or politics.

In the 2006 and 2008 cycles, Democrats won many weeks as the GOP lost its congressional majorities and the White House.

How the 2010 election will play out will have a lot to do with who wins the month of July.

As the party in power, Democrats have the advantage. But in order to pack their summer bags in August on a high note, they will need to do some heavy lifting in the weeks ahead.

By the August recess, House Democrats want to pass every appropriations bill (they have already passed four of the 12 spending measures), healthcare reform and regulatory reform for the financial sector.

Senate Democrats are also aiming to pass healthcare reform by the recess and approve the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Barring a scandal or a significant change in the political winds, Sotomayor should be confirmed easily.

That will be a big win for the Democrats. But more importantly, Democrats need to get a handle on the economy and make sure that the $787 billion economic stimulus law is not labeled a loser.

In the wake of dismal unemployment figures and Vice President Biden’s assertion that the Obama administration and others misread the economy, the GOP is pouncing.

On Sunday and Monday, Republicans issued many press releases touting Biden’s quote as well as the comments by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who said he’s not satisfied with the results of the stimulus. Hoyer, however, defended the stimulus, calling it “absolutely essential.”

Democrats don’t want to be debating the merits of the stimulus package a year from now. If that is the debate, they will be on their heels. Yet if the economy turns around, unemployment recedes and Democrats pass healthcare reform, the GOP could be in for another beating at the polls next year.

President Obama and congressional leaders have said they will pay for every penny they spend on healthcare reform, claiming the bill will not add to the federal deficit over 10 years. Democrats have not indicated how they will accomplish that goal, providing very few specifics on planned cuts to healthcare providers and/or tax increases.

However it gets done, the White House knows some type of healthcare bill must be signed into law this year.

Speaking at a recent Christian Science Monitor breakfast, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Democrats have learned their lessons from failing to reform the healthcare system during the Clinton administration.

“[Democrats] know failure is not an option.” Emanuel said. “That was not the psychology going into ’93 and ’94.”