Clinton pulls punches with GOP Congress

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Hillary Clinton has largely gone easy on the Republican-led Congress even as she has relentlessly attacked Donald Trump.

It’s a strategy aimed at wooing ­anti-Trump Republicans, but one that dismays some Democrats who think a more pointed attack from Clinton would help the party win back the Senate majority and pick up a lot of seats in the House.

{mosads}Though such gains are well within the Democratic Party’s reach, Clinton has largely pulled her punches when it comes to Capitol Hill Republicans.

When the Democratic nominee called last month for Congress to reconvene to pass legislation that would help fight the Zika virus, her language was mild.

Clinton said she was “very disappointed” with the Congress, adding, “I would very much urge the leadership of Congress to call people back for a special session and get a bill passed.”

She made a plea for the measure Democrats want but wasn’t adamant: “Pass the bipartisan bill in the Senate or come up with a new compromise that does the same.”

Clinton then took a shot at Trump, and didn’t mention by name Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who have attempted to distance themselves from Trump on a host of issues.

Democrats in general have been doing everything they can to link Republicans down-ballot to Trump, hoping that if the GOP standard-bearer goes down in flames, he will take his party in the Senate and House with him.

Indeed, it’s rare to see a Democratic campaign statement that doesn’t mention Trump, or one that doesn’t say Republican candidate X stands hand in hand with the GOP presidential nominee.

Of course, Clinton wants a Democratic House and Senate too.

She’s been a major asset to the party on the fundraising front, raising more than $106 million for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and state parties as of July 31, according to a Democratic insider. The source pointed out that the Clinton campaign has staff in all 50 states and is coordinating closely with congressional campaigns in battleground states.

In July of 2015, Clinton vowed to win the Senate and “narrow the margin” in the House; she has since said “we are going to take back the House and the Senate.”

“Hillary Clinton is deeply committed to building the party and doing everything she can to help elect Democrats up and down the ballot to create a Democratic majority,” campaign spokesman Jesse Ferguson told The Hill in response to a request for comment.

Clinton’s primary goal, however, is to win the White House. And while her message is focused on demonizing Trump, it does not seek to demonize the GOP, which might turn off Republican voters.

At the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, a number of Republicans came onstage to voice support for Clinton. Her message was that country is more important than party, and that Republicans should cross party lines to vote for the former secretary of State and against Trump.

According to emails released by WikiLeaks, senior Democratic officials objected to plans by Clinton to distinguish Trump from Ryan and other GOP elected officials.

Then-DNC communications director Luis Miranda sent an email to Amy Dacey, then the DNC CEO, stating that Clinton’s campaign officials didn’t “want us to tie Trump to other Republicans because they think it makes him look normal.”

“That’s a problem,” Miranda added in the email, titled “Problem with HFA,” an acronym for Hillary for America.

“We would basically have to throw out our entire frame that the GOP made Trump through years of divisive and ugly politics,” Miranda wrote. “It just doesn’t work from the Party side.”

It “would ALSO put us at odds with … basically all of our Congressional Democrats who have embraced our talking points … to point out that GOPers in Congress have been pushing these ugly policies for years,” he claimed.

It’s a different strategy from the one President Obama used in 2012, when the party seized on Mitt Romney’s selection of Ryan as his running mate to rip the Wisconsin Republican’s controversial budgets. That year, Democrats picked up eight House seats and retained control of the Senate.

Clinton certainly has no problem calling out Republicans.

Asked at a debate last year which enemy she’d made that she was most proud of, Clinton said “probably the Republicans” after also mentioning Iran, the National Rifle Association, health insurance companies and the prescription drug industry. Vice President Biden subsequently criticized her for the remark.

If elected, Clinton will need to work with Ryan, McConnell and other Republicans to govern. And there are some signs that this post-election environment is already on her mind.

The Washington Post last month ran an above-the-fold front-page story titled “With comfortable lead, Clinton starts refining an agenda.”

The article highlighted that Clinton tapped the Roosevelt Institute in New York to compile a list of hundreds of possible appointees for her administration. It also spelled out how she would push for campaign finance reform, an immigration overhaul and more infrastructure spending.

Unlike Obama in his first year as commander in chief, Clinton — if she wins — will not have supermajorities in the House and Senate. Republicans are expected to retain the lower chamber, while the Senate is up for grabs.

“Hillary Clinton is the type of person who wants to get things done and has shown an ability to work with Republicans in Congress towards a greater aim,” said David Goodfriend, a former Capitol Hill aide who served as deputy staff secretary to then-President Bill Clinton. “But if the Republican-led Congress this fall drags the country into another government shutdown or fails to act on the Zika outbreak hitting Florida and other important states, it will be hard for any of us to avoid talking about what the Trump-led Republican Party would do to the United States if he were elected.”

Bill Clinton struck many deals with Republican-led Congresses, including on welfare reform and a balanced budget act. On the campaign trail, the 42nd president has noted that his wife worked with Republicans when she served in the Senate. That kind of message from the Clinton campaign, which doesn’t work in a competitive primary, is likely to be emphasized over the next couple of months.

Republicans have taken note of Clinton’s tactics. During an appearance on CNN in August, The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis said Clinton’s strategy is centered on governing.

Lewis said, “The partisan temptation is to vanquish your enemy. Hillary’s not doing that. It’s a surgical strike against Donald Trump. … I’m sure the Democratic Senatorial [Campaign] Committee would prefer Hillary to do something different.”

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