It’s Recess — Do You Know Where Your Wedge Issue Is?

May 31, 2010 4:37 a.m.

House Democrats are home for a long Memorial Day break with a gift-wrapped wedge issue delivered just in time for district campaigning. One of their final actions before adjourning late Friday was passing a measure that would strip tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas by a 215-204 vote.

Sure, wedge issues are usually social in nature, but the Democrats stand ready to divide crucial midterm election voters on economic policy. Democratic campaign types are thrilled with the timing of the vote, saying the outsourcing issue gives candidates the perfect platform to repeat Mark Critz’s successful campaign that helped him win the special election in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional district earlier this month. One Democrat said the Republican opposition to addressing outsourcing “will be a clear line in the sand” that members are being asked to highlight back home next week.

“They are voting against jobs,” the Democrat said in a preview of television attack ads and pressure campaigns Republicans can expect this week.Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao (R-LA) was the lone GOPer to agree with the majority party, though Republicans are quick to point out that 34 House Democrats opposed the outsourcing amendment.

For few dozen members in both Republican and Democratic primaries from Virginia to California, the week gives them a chance to give voters one last pitch for why they should stay in office. Those primaries are for seats that are considered safe for the fall.

Promising to end tax breaks for companies who outsource jobs was always one of Barack Obama’s loudest applause lines when he was a candidate for president, and Democrats have adopted similar rhetoric, especially in states harmed by NAFTA.

DCCC Chairman Rep. Chris Van Hollen told reporters last week that outsourcing was the biggest issue in the PA-12 race and boasted that the Democrats would give Critz (D-PA) another chance to shore up his promises and earn him reelection for a full term this fall. Labor unions, of course, have joined in to pressure Republicans on the issue.

On another topic, members have shored up their own cred with progressives they need to show up this November by passing a measure to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It still needs to get through the Senate, but with the deal Democrats struck with the White House and the Pentagon, there’s a good chance it will become reality this year. The DNC’s Organizing for America on Friday started a campaign to get supporters to sign on to calls for the bill to pass Congress and be signed by Obama. Expect to hear more about it in the coming weeks as well.

Meanwhile, the GOP is going to say that Democrats punted the budget by putting off votes on the spending blueprint before leaving. They’ll keep it up on fiscal responsibility attacks throughout the campaign.

House Minority Leader John Boehner — who hopes to become speaker if the Republicans can win enough seats — wrote a memo Friday saying Democrats “squandered” the last seven weeks because of “zero action on a budget to rein in federal spending and boost job creation” among other things.

The Democrat compared the new push to their effort to expose hypocritical Republicans for opposing the $787 billion stimulus funds but bragging about the spending in their home districts. The issue is “very potent” for voters, the Democrat said.

A GOP aide said the Republicans also will call out Democrats for not hosting town halls, saying that the majority party is “continuing to ignore the voices of their constituents at every turn.”

TPMDC obtained a memo from House Democratic leadership to members asking they campaign during the break (which they call a “district work period”) on the votes they took on jobs and the economy. They also are continuing to campaign on the implementation of the health care law, especially since many of its benefits are kicking in earlier than expected.

They also are urging members host military-focused Memorial Day events.
On the Senate side it’s likely to be a little quieter, with the exception of Sen. Blanche Lincoln being locked in a tight runoff Democratic primary battle with Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in Arkasas. She’s also being hit over NAFTA as Arkansas jobs have emerged as a top campaign issue.

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