Democrats pushing economy, health care over recess

Congressional Democrats plan to look both backward and forward during the week-long Memorial Day recess — back to a record of economic accomplishment, they say, and ahead to a ferocious fight over health care reform.

Recess packets and interviews with members of the majority party carry the same message: The party has made tough decisions to “put our country back on the path to prosperity,” but more “investments” are needed to reform the country’s ailing health care system.

To tout the party’s progress on economic recovery, the talking points distributed to all 59 Democrats urges them to try to spotlight the effects of the economic stimulus plan such as holding press conferences in barns to highlight $172 million in farm loans, roadside press conferences to highlight $48 billion in new highway funding, and press conferences with recently laid-off teachers to highlight $44 billion in state aid.

“As economic recovery funding is returning to your states and local communities, there are many ways that you can show your constituents how this funding is being used to create jobs and promote economic growth,” reads a joint message from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the White House included in the Democratic packets.

One typical idea distributed to Senate Democrats: “Host a groundbreaking event at a (highway) project site with local officials and a newly hired construction worker, or meet and greet with workers at an active project and deliver brief remarks.”

Democratic senators like Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska political mess has legislators divided over meeting place Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world MORE of Alaska say they plan to carry the message home — but temper it with caution.

"People are just still cautious,” Begich said. “They don't want to jump out there too fast. They want to see how all this plays out. This summer, it will show it because the stimulus money will start flowing into the economy, into infrastructure projects. Once people see that, I think they'll see a lot of activity."

Likewise, Democratic Rep. Rob Andrews (N.J.) said he plans to urge patience among his constituents even while ticking off accomplishments such as infrastructure funding, first-time homebuyer tax credits, small business tax breaks and education funding.

"I tell them 'I know, it took us a long time to get into this mess. It's going to take a long time for us to get out of it,’ “ Andrews said. “We have done things which I believe will work but I don't want to mislead people and say it will work tomorrow morning.”

The Senate Democratic recess packet compiled by Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidCortez Masto says she's not interested in being Biden VP Nevada congressman admits to affair after relationship divulged on podcast Overnight Energy: 600K clean energy jobs lost during pandemic, report finds | Democrats target diseases spread by wildlife | Energy Dept. to buy 1M barrels of oil MORE (D-Nev.) and Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) pointedly urges the party to distinguish itself from the record of the Bush administration in terms of the country’s optimism. The packet points out, for example, that polling by the Associated Press has found that since December, the percentage of Americans who believe the country is headed in the right direction has increased 16 percent, to 48 percent, while the number of “hopeful” Americans has increased by 31 percent since October.

The party is preparing for a prolonged congressionl struggle over health care, however. Like talking points distributed among House Democrats, Senate Democrats are urged to reassure constituents that Democrats will improve, not threaten, the current system in which most people value their employer-provided care and want to preserve their choices of doctors and plans.

The Senate’s talking points, however, take pains to point out the fiscal necessity of reform, arguing that climbing costs are choking the country’s businesses.

“We cannot delay this discussion any longer,” reads the message to Senate Democrats. “Health care reform is no longer just a moral imperative, it is a fiscal imperative. If we want to create jobs and rebuild our economy, then we must address the crushing cost of health care this year.”

Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump official violated ethics rules in seeking EPA job for relative, watchdog finds| Trump administration aims to buy uranium for reserve 'as soon as possible,' official says| 18 states fight conservative think tank effort to freeze fue 18 states fight conservative think tank effort to freeze fuel efficiency standards OVERNIGHT ENERGY: States, green groups sue Trump over rollback of Obama fuel efficiency regulations | Oil lobby says low prices still hurting industry | Conservative group wants Trump to go further in rolling back key environmental law MORE (D-Calif.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said he needs no encouragement to talk to his constituents about health care, since they commonly bring it up first.

“There's an apprehension. There's an uncertainty about what they have,” Becerra said. “There's a loss of stability that they're OK. Some of them are OK, but they're very concerned about what's around the corner.”

Congress reconvenes on Monday, June 1.