Battle Lines Drawn Over Jobs As Members Use Recess For Politicking

Staffers might be kicking back with bottles of beer right now, but this will be no week of relaxation for those members of Congress with eyes on this fall’s critical midterm elections. Leaders of both the Republican and Democratic parties sent rank-and-file members home armed with reams of talking points aimed at tooting their own horns and tweaking their rivals.

Internal documents designed to help members prepare for the week-long recess (and obtained by TPM) show that each party is engaged in a pitched battle over the economy. Democrats were even handed a “Job Fair in a Box” kit with suggestions on how to prove to their constituents that reducing unemployment numbers is their top concern. Republicans have their soliloquies prepped too, and will say that the Democratic Party has pursued a “reckless agenda” that cost the nation thousands of jobs.The Democrats decided to dub themselves the “New Direction Congress” in the hopes that they can convince voters that their work has only just begun since they took control in January 2007. Republicans will use the aforementioned jobless figures and the skyrocketing deficit to say that the Democrats have blown their chances.

The Democrats’ recess packet stresses jobs, jobs and more jobs, with the phrases “job creation” and “create new jobs” appearing 24 times in the span of just a few pages.

The packet includes handy cheat sheets about Democrats’ big accomplishments, with health care topping the list. It also includes a list of suggested events, such as tying a press conference with seniors to the Medicare “donut hole” refund checks being mailed out.

The Job Fair in a Box was the most specific part of the recess plan for Democrats, and it is aimed at showcasing how the government’s $787 billion economic stimulus plan is working. The step-by-step plan includes contacting employers and the area Chamber of Commerce, planning for enough name badges, clipboards and parking, and coordinating local television and newspaper coverage. Peruse the Dems’ Job Fair In A Box here.

It comes as little surprise that Democrats plan to blame Republicans for obstruction and claim that economic relief would surely be on the horizon if GOP Senators hadn’t blocked bill after bill. A letter to members signed by House leadership — Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Caucus Chairman John Larson — lays out the strategy:

In the House and Senate, Republicans continue to block legislation to create American jobs. House Democrats voted to help prevent companies from shipping jobs overseas. Republicans said no. House Democrats voted to extend tax breaks to and unleash billions of dollars in lending for small businesses. Republicans said no. House Democrats voted for Build America Bonds to create jobs building schools, hospitals, highways, and rail lines. Republicans said no.

As we head home for the July 4th District Work Period, we must all set the record straight. At the current rate of job growth, we will see more jobs created under the Obama Administration this year than in eight years under President Bush. In fact, there were more private sector jobs in America the day George Bush walked into the White House than the day he left. That’s right–under Republican rule, government actually grew and the private sector shrank.

Americans chose a New Direction. We are not going back.

Get the idea? Democrats have already said their 2010 message will be that the GOP wants to turn back the clock to the Bush era.

Republican aides told TPM privately they are looking forward to the recess since their poll numbers are on the rise and think they’ve been boosted politically by the recent jobless figures.

GOP Conference Chairman Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) told rank-and-file Republicans to trumpet that “2.4 million jobs have been lost” since President Obama signed the stimulus bill, giving them detailed unemployment figures to back up their claims in a letter obtained by TPM.

Pence suggested members attend town halls, parades, and community gatherings to remind voters that both Obama and Pelosi promised health care reform would create jobs, but that hasn’t come to pass.

The Republicans also want to use the same tactic the Democrats used in 2006 to label the majority party a “Do Nothing” Congress. The chief complaint is that the Democrats haven’t passed a full budget, something both parties have long been guilty of, especially in election years. “Their philosophy of governing is apparently ‘don’t govern,'” the Republicans wrote in their recess memos.