Dems, GOP hone messages for final campaign push

Democrats and Republicans are using Congress’s final week of work before the midterm elections to make their closing arguments for why they should control the Senate in 2015.

Senate Democrats are emphasizing their “Fair Shot” agenda, forcing Republicans to vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act and a constitutional amendment intended to stop wealthy donors from spending unlimited amounts on elections.

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Democrats might cap the week by trying to revive legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

While the efforts have attracted little media attention, Democratic senators said they would be talking about the votes on the campaign trail.

“The closing argument for Democrats is going to be the economic issues in our Fair Shot [agenda]. Our candidates are using them with great success. They may not be the national headlines but they’re working in the campaigns,” said Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerGroup of GOP senators back more money for airlines to pay workers GOP super PAC launching August ad blitz Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package MORE (D-N.Y.), who is tasked with coordinating the floor agenda with the party’s political messaging.

“Republican candidates are on the defensive. A few of them have come out for minimum wage. A few of them have come out for equal pay,” he said.

Dan Sullivan, the Republican Senate candidate in Alaska, now says he supports raising the minimum wage. In Arkansas, Rep. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonPresidential debates demonstrate who has what it takes On The Trail: The first signs of a post-Trump GOP The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Brawls on Capitol Hill on Barr and COVID-19 MORE, the GOP challenger to Sen. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorCoronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 Tom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 MORE (D), backs raising the state minimum to $8.50 an hour.  

While Democrats are focused on pocketbook issues, Republicans are talking about getting the Senate to work again.

GOP senators are vowing to act on the dozens of stalled jobs bills passed by the House and say a Republican majority in the upper chamber would put a check on President Obama’s agenda.

“There’s only one thing that can be done in 2014 to begin to take America in a different direction, and that’s to change the Senate,” Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellNegotiators remain far apart on coronavirus deal as deadline looms States begin removing Capitol's Confederate statues on their own Skepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal MORE (Ky.) said.

He said Republicans would act immediately in the majority to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline and repeal the medical-device tax.

“Those are the kinds of things that we’ve not been able to vote on in the Senate for years that the American people might like us to address,” he said.

McConnell on Wednesday dismissed the Democrats’ September agenda as a series of “show votes” and called for the chamber to vote on new rules being promulgated by the administration to limit emissions from coal-fired power plants.

In an op-ed published by Fox News, Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynSkepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal Republicans uncomfortably playing defense Negotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts MORE (Texas) laid out the agenda for Senate Republicans should they win the majority in November.

“First and foremost, we have long stressed the need to pass a pro-growth, fiscally responsible budget that actually cuts spending and reforms government,” he wrote.

He listed Keystone, regulatory reform that “fosters economic growth,” ending the era of financial institutions that are “too big to fail” and tax reform that lowers rates and simplifies “the entire system.”

“People are seeing Republicans have a better chance of being in the majority and they want to know what are our ideas going forward,” he told The Hill.

Senate Democratic candidates have latched on to different pieces of their leadership’s agenda.

“I speak on behalf of every North Carolinian, especially middle-class families. Everybody needs to have an opportunity to get ahead, not just the wealthy,” said Sen. Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations Democrats awash with cash in battle for Senate The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's job approval erodes among groups that powered his 2016 victory MORE (D-N.C.), who faces a tough reelection race.

“I can’t imagine why anybody would not support letting students refinance their student debt. This is something impacting so many families,” she added, referring to a Republican objection to holding a vote this week on the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act.

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyHillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Merkley, Sanders introduce bill limiting corporate facial recognition Portland protesters clash with law enforcement for first time since federal presence diminished MORE (D), who is running for reelection in Oregon, has stressed the support for Republicans from wealthy donors such as Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists.

“In Oregon, it’s a battle between Oregon values and Koch brothers values,” he said.

He said his final pitch to voters would include the importance of “living-wage jobs” and “a fair shot of going to college with affordable loans.”

Democrats are feeling more confident about their chances in November, with recent polls showing Hagan building a lead and the media reporting that groups backed by the Koch brothers have pulled out of Oregon.

One senior Democratic aide described himself as “buoyant” about the upcoming election, after having experienced some “dark moments” a few weeks ago.

Some vulnerable Democrats, however, have distanced themselves from the party message in Washington.

“My opening argument, my middle argument and my closing argument is this race is about leadership for Louisiana, effective leadership. Seniority matters. Clout matters. The clout that the people of Louisiana have gained should not be easily given up or given away. That’s all my message is about,” said Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuBottom line A decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face MORE (D-La.), who ranks among the most endangered incumbents and is now chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Democrats argue they have stuck consistently to their message this year while Republicans have veered from topic to topic.

“We made a calculation about what the races are about and have stuck to it,” a Democratic leadership aide said.

The aide said Republicans pledged to make the election about ObamaCare, but then turned to scandals plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs before pouncing on the national security threats posed by Russia and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Republicans say their election messaging has had a consistent thread: Opposing Obama’s agenda.

“My closing argument is my opponent is one more vote for Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaHearing for Twitter hack suspect Zoom-bombed by porn, rap music Read: Sally Yates testimony Michelle Obama says she is managing 'low-grade depression' MORE’s agenda and I’m one more vote for a new Republican majority to move the country in a new, more conservative direction. That’s the whole issue,” Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux  Negotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts Chamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection MORE (R-Tenn.) said.