Unions haven’t been told entitlements are off-limits in ‘cliff’ talks

The three unions are running television ads that target five Senate Democrats: Michael BennetMichael BennetA guide to the committees: Senate Senate advances Trump's Commerce pick Senate Dems move to nix Trump's deportation order MORE and Mark UdallMark UdallElection autopsy: Latinos favored Clinton more than exit polls showed Live coverage: Tillerson's hearing for State The rise and possible fall of the ‘Card’ in politics MORE in Colorado, Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillA guide to the committees: Senate Juan Williams: Senate GOP begins to push Trump away Dem senator: I may face 2018 primary from Tea Party-esque progressives MORE in Missouri and Jim Webb and Mark WarnerMark WarnerWashington-area lawmakers request GAO report on DC Metro Trump's pick for intel chief to get hearing next week A guide to the committees: Senate MORE in Virginia.

Peter Colavito, SEIU’s director of government relations, said those lawmakers would be key to any deficit-reduction compromise that passes Congress. 

“We need Democrats in the Senate to stand strong to prevent deep cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and education — cuts that would hurt seniors, children and people with disabilities and affect almost every family in the country,” Colavito said. “These leading Democrats are important voices within their Senate caucus to push a deal that puts jobs before cuts.”

They are also running radio ads that target House Republicans who said in the past they are open to new tax revenue, including Reps. Jo Ann Emerson (Mo.), Pat Meehan (Pa.), Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.) and Don YoungDon YoungA guide to the committees: House Trump, GOP set to battle on spending cuts Alaska lawmakers mull legislation to block Obama drilling ban MORE (Alaska). 

“We need to work with Republicans who in many cases are our friends — they are Republicans we have worked with before — and who have shown a willingness to put people ahead of party politics,” Kusler said. 

All four Republicans signed onto a November 2011 letter to the failed “supercommittee” that said all spending as well as tax revenue must be on the table.

The ad campaign is a move by labor to sway the debate toward the left, where a final fiscal-cliff deal would raise taxes on the wealthy without touching entitlement benefits.

Polling since Election Day released by unions and liberal allies has found that voters do not want to slash into entitlements or other service programs to bring down the debt. 

Centrists have begun to push back against that notion. On Tuesday, Third Way, a centrist think tank, released a poll that found a majority of voters who supported President Obama thought changes to fix Social Security and Medicare would be better for the country. 

The Mellman Group, a Democratic polling firm, released a survey commissioned by the unions that found cuts to Medicare and Social Security as well as education would anger a majority of voters. Mark Mellman, president and CEO of the firm, said when voters are asked about cuts to specific programs, they oppose them.

“When you look at these specific cuts, people are clearly opposed to those specific cuts. That’s what we are saying here and there’s really no evidence presented by anyone else to the contrary,” said Mellman, who is also a columnist for The Hill.