- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Rival labor unions plan to fund jointly a $500,000 advertising campaign to derail budget cuts they argue will increase the cost of health care for seniors.

Leaders of the Service Employees International Union and Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees said they will target a group of 11 moderate Republicans, whom they hope will reject the cuts in a new vote next month.

The unions are targeting House members Rep. Sherwood Boehlert of New York, Rep. Bob Beauprez of Colorado, Rep. Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri, Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Rep. Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania, Rep. Mark Green of Wisconsin, Rep. Nancy L. Johnson of Connecticut, Rep. Jim Nussle of Iowa, Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut, Rep. Rob Simmons of Connecticut and Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan.

“If we get them, we think that’s a big step toward completing the job,” AFSCME President Gerald McEntee said.

TV ads opposing the cuts will run for a week beginning today.

The Senate approved the fiscal 2006 spending-cuts package, with Vice President Dick Cheney returning from a trip in the Middle East to cast the tie-breaking vote. The House also voted 212-206 to approve $39.7 billion in spending cuts over five years, including $6.4 billion from Medicare and about $4.8 billion from Medicaid.

Mr. Shays defended his support for the cuts, which are intended to shrink the budget deficit to $260.5 billion by 2009.

“I think many of my constituents are very concerned about the significant growth in federal spending and want to see us slow its growth. While I don’t agree with everything that’s in the package, on balance, I believe that this bill will help bring fiscal responsibility to federal spending,” he said.

Maneuvers by Democrats will require the House to vote on the bill again before it can be sent to President Bush; it has been scheduled for Feb. 1.

SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger said the health care cuts would make it more difficult for senior citizens to qualify for Medicare and limit their access to nursing home care by increasing costs to the elderly.

SEIU, with 1.8 million members, and AFSCME, with 1.4 million members, are two of the nation’s biggest unions, but last year the groups effectively split. SEIU left the AFL-CIO labor federation and helped form the Change to Win Federation after a yearlong debate over the direction of the AFL-CIO.

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