To the degree that it gets discussed by the Washington political classes at all, the expiration of unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans just after Christmas is already being treated as a fait accompli — there is no way “Congress” will ever act to renew them, after all.
But Democrats and liberal groups are still not giving up. They are planning a concerted, multi-faceted push over the break designed to pressure Republicans — not Congress; Republicans — to agree to renew the benefits. This comes after Harry Reid announced that a vote on extending UI — which Republicans continue to resist — will take place when the Senate reconvenes in January.
Here, courtesy of multiple sources involved in the planning, are the main events planned for this pressure campaign:
1) Liberal groups will launch a national TV ad campaign that hits Republicans for letting benefits expire for over one million Americans, to be launched the day after Christmas and run on national cable through at least December 28th, the day benefits are set to expire. The ads will also highlight GOP priorities by spotlighting GOP opposition to nixing loopholes enjoyed by the top one percent even as a lifeline expires for over one million far less fortunate Americans.
There may also be a second round of ads launched when Congress returns in early January. The ads — backed by a “significant” buy, a source says — will be run by Americans United for Change. Other groups involved in the broader campaign include the National Employment Law project, AFSCME, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, and UAW.
2) House Democrats are planning a big push in local media, with the goal of using local coverage to dramatize how constituents in Republican districts will be impacted by the expiration of benefits. This is hyper-granular stuff: I’m told Ways and Means Committee Dems are collecting county-by-county data on the number of people who will be kicked off benefits, and pushing local press outlets to reflect these numbers in their coverage.
The idea is to make it harder for individual lawmakers to escape the direct consequences, in their districts, of failing to renew benefits, bringing it home. The goal is to inspire more press coverage like this, this, and this.
3) Liberal groups are drawing up lists of House Republicans who are both vulnerable and reside in states where unemployment is high. The targeting of them will take various forms, such as conference calls — directed at local media in their states and districts — that feature people who are losing benefits.
Meanwhile, labor unions are planning events in states, and liberal groups are planning polls on unemployment benefits in both marginal districts and nationally. Results should be released next week.
Now, most House Republicans will just shrug at all of this stuff, since they are cossetted away in safe districts. A new Pew poll finds that Republican voters prioritize deficit reduction over maintaining current aid to the “poor and needy” by 55-35. But the broader public favors maintaining current aid to the poor over deficit reduction by 59-33, as do independents by 53-38. And so, with the deficit dropping away as a concern, Dems hope GOP leaders — who don’t appear to harbor visceral opposition to unemployment insurance — will come around to the view that continued resistance to extending benefits that are set to cut off just after Christmas won’t help the party’s overall national image.
It’s a point of constant frustration for Democrats that in situations like these — when one party favors extending benefits, and the other opposes it — the media storyline is invariably that “Congress” is failing to act. So one key goal of this campaign is to drive home to the public that “Congress” isn’t letting down these one million or more Americans; Republicans are.