Senate Democrats, facing an increasing threat of losing their majority in November, rolled out an ambitious and populist legislative agenda on Wednesday that aims to rally their base and divert voter attention away from the unpopular health reform law.
The agenda, which includes a minimum wage bill and legislation to ensure women and men are paid equally by making it easier for employees to file lawsuits, has no chance of becoming law because the Republican-run House will not take up any of the proposals.
But Democrats hope to benefit from the effort by contrasting themselves against Republicans, who they portray as a party that only cares about big corporations and the rich.
Democrats are calling their plan the “Fair Shot for Everyone” agenda.
“While Republicans defend a system that benefits huge corporations and a few at the top, Democrats will go on offense with a positive agenda that has broad support among liberals, conservatives and moderates,” Democratic leaders announced in a press release issued before they addressed reporters on Wednesday.
Republicans need a net gain of six Senate seats in November in order to take the majority.
Some electoral forecasts suggest Republicans have the momentum to win back the gavel by picking off several red-state Democrats and some Democratic incumbents in states President Obama carried, including Colorado and New Hampshire.
Many vulnerable Senate Democrats have watched their poll numbers sink in the wake of the disastrous health care law rollout, and Republicans have capitalized on the situation by running television ads linking Democrats with the law they voted for.
But Senate Democrats believe they can attract voters with their legislative plan, beginning with a proposal to raise the minimum wage by nearly 40 percent, to $10.10 per hour.
Another bill they propose would end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. A third measure would provide stimulus money for infrastructure projects, which Democrats say will create jobs. Democrats say they will also take up a measure offering new regulations to govern student loans, which they say would help alleviate the fast-growing college debt problem problem.
All of these issues, Democrats argued Wednesday, are vastly more important than Obamacare, which they said fewer and fewer voters are worried about.
“Eighty-five percent of all Americans are not affected by the Affordable Care Act,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a Democratic leader, said. “People are discontent because of the overall state of the middle class. So what we are doing is focusing like a laser on the concerns of the middle class. Concerns of the middle class can trump the Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act, because what Americans really care about is making their lives better and lifting us up.”
Republicans were quick to point out that even Democrats admit their legislative agenda will never become law and is rather an effort to appeal to their voting base.
“Senate Democrats won't be announcing a plan for getting things done, but rather a plan to use the Senate as a campaign studio and an attempt to paper over their support for Obamacare,” Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.