The Washington Post

House Democrats unveil policy ‘Action Plan’ as Pelosi sets ambitious goal for November

In an interview, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Republicans are focused on “process, process, process as opposed to progress, progress, progress, which is what we’re about.” (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

House Democrats plan to unveil a list of election-year proposals Wednesday that party leaders hope will resonate with women, blue-collar workers and younger voters — three key constituencies that historically don’t show up to vote in significant numbers in midterm election years.

The release of the “100 Day Action Plan” comes as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that her goal is to pick up 25 GOP seats in November, a bold ambition given historical trends: The party of a two-term president usually loses seats in his sixth year in office.

With President Obama’s approval rating mired below 50 percent, the GOP is expected to expand its House majority and could narrowly gain control of the Senate.

But Pelosi believes that her new policy plan and the recent talk among House Republicans about filing a lawsuit or possibly impeaching Obama will shore up support among Democratic-base voters, win over independents and give the party a narrow edge.

Seeking to draw a direct contrast with Republicans, Pelosi and her leadership team plan to introduce their proposals on the Capitol steps just as Republicans begin a hearing to advance a lawsuit challenging Obama on the Affordable Care Act.

Talk of such a suit “really turns off a lot of the middle, because it’s just political,” Pelosi said during an interview Tuesday. Republicans, she added, are focused on “process, process, process as opposed to progress, progress, progress, which is what we’re about.”

Pelosi laid out her goals for November’s elections, insisting that Democrats “absolutely” can gain seats. “We’re playing in about 70 districts; 25 is my goal — I would like that,” she said.

Democrats need to hold on to the seats they currently control and gain an additional 17 in order to win the majority. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, responsible for electing more Democrats to the House, lists about 35 seats that it would like to flip from red to blue.

In a Washington Post-ABC News poll in June, Democrats had a narrow edge over Republicans when respondents were asked which party they would prefer to control the House. Those results favor Republicans historically, given that the GOP has enjoyed a turnout advantage in midterm elections. Republicans also control the drawing of congressional district maps in a majority of states, giving them an advantage in picking up seats. In 2012, Republicans won more seats, even though Democrats won more total votes nationwide.

Undeterred, Pelosi rattled off details of nearly a dozen competitive races and the names of several Democratic candidates during the interview. She cited Kathleen Rice, who is running to succeed retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.); Amanda Renteria, who is challenging Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.); Domenic Recchia, who wants to unseat Rep. Michael G. Grimm (R-N.Y.); and John Foust, the Fairfax County supervisor seeking to replace retiring Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.).

“I go through this every night,” she joked.

“Nobody knows” how things will turn out, she added later. “The polling is so strange now. I just say to people, ‘Just run your race, get out your vote, go door to door, everybody you meet will vote for you, by and large.’ ”

As Democrats hit the campaign trail this fall, they’ll be armed with a list of nine specific policy proposals that Pelosi and her colleagues stitched together over the past few months.

If Democrats were to retake control, their “100 Day Democratic Action Plan to Put the Middle Class First” would call for approving a package of tax cuts for companies creating more jobs; end tax breaks for large corporations as a way to fund bonds to pay for new infrastructure projects; raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour; ensure that men and women earn equal pay and sick leave from their employers; bolster the Violence Against Women Act; and approve reforms to the student loan program championed in recent months by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who has been embraced by Democratic voters as a passionate voice for the working class.

“While Republicans are launching hearings into suing President Obama, we are focused on good-paying jobs here at home. We think that should be the focus of legislative action,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), who helped Pelosi and other Democratic leaders prepare the policy plank.

The ideas are mostly familiar proposals rejected or ignored in recent years by Republicans controlling the House. But Van Hollen helped write a measure that would go after large tax breaks taken by corporations that seek to deduct “performance pay” bonuses for top executives from federal taxes. The loophole earned the ire of Democrats this year during the stalled debate over raising the minimum wage.

Under Van Hollen’s proposal, companies would be barred from claiming tax deductions on performance bonuses and stock options of more than $1 million unless the companies also give rank-and-file workers a raise.

“What we’re saying here is taxpayers are no longer going to subsidize these huge pay packages for CEOs through the deductions unless you’re also giving your employees a raise,” Van Hollen said in an interview.

He predicted that the policy proposals will resonate with voters upset with the lack of accomplishment on Capitol Hill.

The new Democratic plan comes as the DCCC announced Tuesday that it had raised $25.3 million in the second quarter of the year and $10.9 million in June — besting the approximately $9 million raised by the National Republican Congressional Committee last month.

Much of the party’s strength in fundraising is because of Obama, who has attended at least 74 fundraisers or events for the DCCC, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the past year, according to a Washington Post tally of trips up to last week. He has also shared data collected by his presidential campaign with his party’s campaign committees.

Polling analysts Scott Clement and Peyton C. Craighill contributed to this report.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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