Politics

As Congress returns, GOP to focus on economic issues

Chris Moody Contributor

If a Republican official gets anywhere near a microphone in the next two months, expect to hear an earful about taxes, jobs, government spending — and little else.

With the unemployment rate still hovering just below 10 percent, Republicans in the House and Senate who are returning from a six-week summer recess today plan to place the economy center stage for the final session before the midterm elections in November.

Republican aides in both chambers told The Daily Caller that the Party will take the last remaining weeks before the election to hammer away at Democrats specifically on economic issues, focusing on the increases in government spending that have occurred since President Obama’s inauguration, jobs and potential tax hikes.

“We will be focusing on the issues that matter most to the American people: taxes, spending, and jobs,” said Michael Steel, press secretary for House Minority Leader John Boehner.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell outlined the Party’s strategy for the pre-election session in an op-ed last week in which he challenged President Obama to promise in his Friday press conference not to raise taxes on any Americans. Instead, the president made it clear that he will urge his Party to extend certain tax cuts, but raise taxes for the wealthiest Americans. With election day just seven weeks away, McConnell will extend that same challenge to all Democrats.

Not surprisingly, the GOP strategy closely aligns with the issues Americans repeatedly tell pollsters are their top concerns. According to a USA Today/Gallup poll in late August, more than 50 percent of those polled cited “the economy,” “jobs” and “federal spending” as “extremely important.” On all those issues, those surveyed said they trusted Republicans over Democrats.

Republicans will kick off the new session by chipping away at a tax provision in the Democrats’ health care law passed in March. Under the new law, all businesses will be required to submit a 1099 tax form to the IRS for any vendor, contractor or supplier they do more than $600 worth of business with, a requirement that will create a mountain of bureaucratic paperwork and increase the cost of doing business for most companies. Spearheaded by Republican Rep. Dan Lungren of California and Republican Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska, the push for repealing the provision, which is expected to fill government coffers by as much as $17 billion over ten years, already has bipartisan support.

Republicans are also poised to tackle the issue over the so-called Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire at the end of this year. Obama has said he will push to renew only those tax cuts that affect single Americans making less than $200,000 or families earning less than $250,000, but for everyone else, taxes will increase. It’s a deal that the leading Republican in the House says he can live with, even though he would prefer to extend the tax cuts for everyone.

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During an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, Boehner said that he would support allowing tax cuts for the wealthy to expire if extending them for the middle class were still on the table.

“If the only option I have is to vote for some of those tax reductions, I’ll vote for it,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean he, or other Republicans, will stay quiet about it.

Even if Democrats succeed at letting part of the Bush tax cuts expire, discussing the economy on the House or Senate floor is a debate Democrats will want to avoid, a Republican aide told TheDC. The last thing Democrats want is to be stuck in Washington longer than necessary to debate tax policy.

“Democrats don’t want to be in Washington, especially the smart ones,” a senior Senate Republican aide told TheDC. “They know that if they want to have any chance of winning in the fall, they need to be in their home state raising money, not in Washington raising taxes.”

For example, a Senate Democratic spokesman told Roll Call that Democratic Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who is down by as much as 30 points in her reelection race according to recent polls, will spend as little time in Washington as possible. Other Democrats in embattled districts, the source said, plan to do the same.

This congressional session is expected to last three to four weeks, which will leave candidates just under a month to campaign full-time before the midterm elections on Nov. 2.

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