Dems, allies plot strategy

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Stephanie, Nov 28, 2006.

  1. Stephanie

    Stephanie Diamond Member

    Jul 11, 2004
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    By Alexander Bolton

    Labor union representatives, liberal leaders, and aides to House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met yesterday to begin work on a broad lobbying push to promote Pelosi’s 100-legislative-hour agenda with a campaign expected to mimic the one that helped defeat President Bush’s proposed reforms to Social Security.

    Yesterday’s meeting is a signal that interest groups allied with Democrats are going on the offensive, transitioning from the defensive crouch they have held for much of Bush’s time in office.

    The purpose of the gathering was to ensure that party allies are unified during the first crucial weeks of the Democratic majority and that the agenda Democrats campaigned on this fall does not become entangled by interest-group squabbles and competition.

    “We’re talking about engaging in many of the same activities we engaged in during the Social Security effort,” said Chuck Loveless, director of legislation at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which hosted the meeting. Loveless said the campaign would launch immediately and work to mobilize support in December and January.

    Party strategists are speculating that they will have a brief window of legislative productivity before a curtain of partisanship falls across town as Republicans and Democrats gear up for the 2008 presidential election.

    The first priority of the lobbying plan is to pass a minimum-wage increase. The campaign will also focus on allowing the government to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries, repealing tax benefits for oil companies, and cutting the interest rate for student loans.

    The strategic advantage of the 100-hour agenda is that it is made up of proposals that are broadly popular, thereby allowing the Democrats’ allies to achieve consensus and work together from the start of next year. After that agenda is passed, groups are likely to go off in their own directions and clash over competing priorities.

    Aides to incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did not attend the meeting, according to one participant, because the immediate focus of unions and liberal groups is to pass quickly the 100-hour agenda in the House. Fast passage will allow Democrats and their allies to launch Phase II of their legislative plan, which will be to put pressure on the Senate to pass the same agenda.

    The third phase will be to convince Bush to sign the measures into law.

    “The assumption is to pass it quickly in the House so we can get a head of steam and put pressure on the Senate,” said Bob Borosage, co-director of the liberal advocacy group Campaign for America’s Future, who attended the meeting. “As you remember, most of the Contract With America passed the House and never emerged from the Senate. We want to avoid that.”

    Borosage predicted that as many as 100 groups would ultimately participate in the initiative and that it would be broader than the campaign against Bush’s plans for Social Security.

    Groups will mobilize their members to contact and meet with members of Congress and to hold events in their home states and districts. The campaign is expected to include minimal television advertising.

    Representatives from AFSCME, AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, Americans United, a labor-funded advocacy group, and a slew of progressive groups — including USAction, ACORN, Campaign for America’s Future, and — attended the meeting.

    Bill Samuel, legislative director for the AFL-CIO, estimated that the first 100 legislative hours of the new Congress would span about two weeks. Democratic-leaning groups will then begin to pursue their more narrowly shared legislative goals.

    “The 100 hours’ agenda is really stuff that can be done quickly and have popular support and is not terribly complicated,” said Samuel. “It’s a down payment, there’s a much larger agenda.”

    Samuel said that Congress has to tackle big economic issues related to wages, retirement security, and healthcare.

    Both Samuel and Anna Burger, the secretary-treasurer of SEIU, said that Congress must take major steps toward providing universal healthcare coverage in the U.S.

    “We need a healthcare policy that guarantees every man, woman and child in America has quality and affordable healthcare,” said Burger, who also chairs Change to Win, a coalition of seven unions representing 6 million workers. “There have been lots of policies out there — it’s a matter of political will to get the job done.”

    But legislation providing for universal healthcare coverage will be expensive, and Democrats have promised to pass budget rules that would require all new spending to be paid for.

    Asked how to pay for expanded healthcare, Samuel said “We have to review tax cuts for the wealthy.”

    Samuel said that unions would also press for Congress to allow Bush less freedom to negotiate trade agreements, noting that Bush’s so-called fast-track trade negotiating authority expires in June.

    “They need to set negotiating objectives that are enforceable,” he said of Congress.

    Unions will also lobby for Democrats to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which Burger said would protect workers who want to join unions from employer intimidation. That bill is expected to draw strong opposition from Republicans and industry groups.
  2. theHawk

    theHawk Registered Conservative

    Sep 20, 2005
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    Let the Fleecing of America begin.

  3. red states rule

    red states rule Senior Member

    May 30, 2006
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    Dems may have a fight on their hands.............

    Democrats to receive Bush budget warning
    By Stephen Dinan
    November 28, 2006

    President Bush will try to work out a deal on spending with the new Democratic majority on Capitol Hill, but will be prepared to veto bills that exceed his total budget or that slice away at defense needs, said Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman.
    "With the Democrat leadership, we'll try to be transparent and we'll try to be clear in our concerns upfront, and I hope we can work things out without resorting to a veto. But if necessary we will resort to a veto," Mr. Portman told The Washington Times in an interview about the upcoming budget and the Democratic control of Congress.
    Democrats took both houses of Congress in the Nov. 7 elections. Mr. Portman, a former six-term congressman from Ohio, has assumed the role of go-between, making use of his relationships with many of the top lawmakers to find areas of cooperation on annual spending and on thorny issues such as Social Security.
    He has spoken with incoming Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel, the incoming chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees, and Sen. Max Baucus, who will head the Senate Finance Committee. He also has a meeting scheduled with Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat who will head the Senate Appropriations Committee.
    Some conservatives have argued that Democratic control of Congress will give Mr. Bush a sense of more freedom to use his veto powers without causing conflict with congressional leaders in his own party.
    Mr. Portman said he expects presidential vetoes of spending bills in the last two years of Mr. Bush's administration. The president has vetoed only one bill in his six years in office. The House sustained that veto, against a measure to expand federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.
    "The veto, not to pass the buck, but a lot of it depends on the Democratic leadership," Mr. Portman said. "If they choose to try to work things out, we will be in a position to try to do that. We would rather try to make progress. The president is not interested in scoring political points over the next two years; he's interested in getting things done."
    Mr. Portman said a center-right coalition could emerge on issues such as spending and extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, particularly since the rate of taxes as a percentage of the economy -- at 18.4 percent -- is higher than the 18.2 percent average over the past four decades.
    "It's not that we are undertaxed as much as we need to get our spending in line with our revenue. That's the fundamental basis on which we should be able to build a majority on a number of issues," he said.
    Annual federal spending has mushroomed during Mr. Bush's presidency, from $1.86 trillion in fiscal 2001 to $2.67 trillion in 2006. The Congressional Budget Office forecast spending to rise to $2.8 trillion by the end of the 2007 fiscal period. Much of the increase has been in federal entitlements for programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, which have ballooned from $1 trillion in 2001 to $1.42 trillion in 2006.
    The director, interviewed last week in his office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, said opportunities could arise to streamline or cut specific programs. The administration has achieved little toward those goals with a Republican-led Congress.
    The White House hopes Democrats are willing to eliminate public education programs that aren't showing results and to put the money into those that are more promising.
    Mr. Bush has sent budgets to Congress with the understanding that lawmakers would change the distribution of money, but threatened a veto if the total exceeded his limit. He also has threatened to veto defense spending bills if they were altered by Congress too much.
    Mr. Portman is deep into the process of receiving 2008 budget requests from agencies and departments and returning them with suggestions and changes.
    He has not received a total discretionary spending cap and said it is too early to determine whether discretionary spending can be reduced.
    Potential flash points for a spending fight include the fiscal 2008 budget, the first chance Democrats will have to put together a framework for spending. It will give them part ownership of the federal deficit for the first time and force them to take a position on tax increases.

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