Democratic leaders: Start bragging about accomplishments

Democratic leaders: Start bragging about accomplishments

Fearful that their legislative achievements are getting lost amid dismal economic news and intra-party fights on healthcare and Afghanistan, House Democratic leaders are telling their members to do some bragging.

"Who remembers that we extended healthcare to 11 million kids?" said a Democratic leadership aide. "This stuff isn't going to get out on its own."

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To that end, leaders are arming their members with talking points saying that this has already been one of the most productive Congresses in recent memory, and reminding them of some of the more positive headlines they've been racking up.

The effort is an indication that House leaders don't want to wait for the White House to change their message.

White House officials had indicated they wanted to wait until January's State of the Union speech to start a push on jobs. But Democratic members fretted they'd already waited too long, and now they're trying to pass at least some measures through the House before the end of the year.

Many members, particularly freshmen and centrists, were worried by the explosive town halls in August and are angry that they've been forced to cast tough votes that aren't popular at home.

But leaders are saying that some of the reason for that anger is that Congress is getting things done. If they weren't, they'd be criticized as a "do-nothing" Congress.

The talking points, distributed at a caucus meeting early last week, highlight a laundry list of bills that once made headlines, but got quickly swallowed by the 24-hour news cycle. Among them: funding for Afghanistan last year, "cash for clunkers," and the credit card holder's bill of rights.

Other bills were big issues when President George W. Bush was still in office, but passed easily with little fanfare once Democrats controlled both Congress and the White House, like children's health insurance and Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco.

And others reach deeply into people's daily lives but didn't spark controversy and got little attention, such as student aid, a raise for military personnel and food safety.

They are also noting items that haven't been forgotten but are more controversial: the $787 billion stimulus and the healthcare bill passed by the House.

"We stand up pretty well to previous Congresses," the leadership aide said.

Aides note that they've been cheered by Congressional Budget Office reports that the stimulus prevented the loss of jobs and the Senate healthcare bill won't raise premiums. They'd been particularly worried that the healthcare analysis might show an increase.

House leaders hope to have another accomplishment next week with financial regulatory reform, which they've packaged as "Wall Street reform and consumer protection." The nonpartisan CBO said late on Friday that the wide-ranging bill to crack down on Wall Street and revamp the nation's financial markets will increase the national deficit by $4.5 billion over the next decade.