It looks like the congressional stalemate on jobs is headed directly for a political showdown in November’s midterm elections. After Republicans successfully blocked multiple efforts by Democrats to extend unemployment benefits before the holiday break, both sides were forced to call a draw while more than 1.2 million jobless workers saw their insurance expire. Now, as representatives from both parties take a week off in their home districts, they’re arming themselves with talking points for angry constituents. And eyeing midterms as a crucial moment to build an agenda for years to come.
Labor leaders in Kentucky organized a demonstration this afternoon against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who helped lead the opposition to legislation extending unemployment benefits. The state’s AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan told The Hill, “The message at events like this across the country is loud and clear: Working people won’t stand for elected officials who play politics with people’s livelihoods.”
The national unemployment rate is currently 9.5 percent, while the jobless rate for workers of color is nearly double that. UC Berkeley’s Labor Center released new data this week showing that the Black unemployment rate for June was 15.4 percent.
Still, those politics are heating up. Talking Points Memo reported on how representatives from both sides of the aisle left last week with holiday homework to ease their constituents – and help build party support for what’s sure to be contentious midterm elections.
Democrats had their “Job Fair in a Box” kits, which included cheat sheets touting the party’s big success with health care and step-by-step instructions on holding local job fairs.
TPM reported that the phrases “job creation” and “create new jobs” appeared 24 times in a the first few pages. The overall consensus from House leaders is that the Democrats have done everything in their power to secure jobs for unemployed workers, while Republicans have done everything in their power to stop them. This includes their efforts to stop American companies from shipping jobs oversees, supporting small business growth, and using bonds to employ workers to build new schools and highways.
Meanwhile, Republican representatives say that the mounting deficit and stagnant unemployment numbers show that the Democratic strategies simply aren’t working.
The Hill reported today that Republicans are working on a remodeled documented called the “Contract With America” due out in September. Back in 1994, Newt Gingrich helped craft the first iteration of this contract, which used parts if Ronald Reagan’s 1985 State of the Union address to outline a conservative agenda. Notably, Congress voted on ten pieces of legislation from the contract, including the Personal Responsibility Act, which aimed to prohibit welfare for mothers under the age 18; The American Dream Restoration Act, which created a $500-per-child tax credit to provide tax relief for middle class families; and the Taking Back Our Streets Act, which helped fund additional law enforcement and new prison construction. Iterations of all three acts were eventually signed into law by 1996, and it’s widely believed that the move helped Republicans win back the House after four decades of Democratic control.
This time around, the Republican strategy is much of the same. Again, Republicans want to win control of the House and a dismal economy is tanking support for a Democratic president. The Hill reported that Republicans have been busy holding town halls to gather ideas for a new contract, including a website that’s supposedly fielded more than 10,000 ideas from supporters. Categories on the website include “Fiscal Accountability”, “American Values” and “National Security.”
“There are conversations every single day among our members” on what to include in the document, House GOP leader John Boehner told The Hill last week.
Drumming up support for Republican candidates in November is just one part of the equation, and already Obama’s support among white Independent voters in slipping.
Photo: Getty Images/Joe Raedle