The six-month, postelection political battle in Congress shows no sign of slowing down as Democrats continue to wage war on the GOP agenda and Republican leaders charge that the nonstop attacks prove their opponents have no proposals of their own.
With public opinion polls showing Congress’ overall job-disapproval score at 55 percent and as lawmakers rushed to finish major bills before the August recess, the attack-counterattack rhetoric on Capitol Hill appeared to be getting as hot as the District’s summer — especially in the House.
But as the Democrats were promising to step up their attacks, Republicans were planning to renew a grass-roots campaign of explaining and promoting their legislative record back home during the August break.
“The Democrats are not going to win the majority back by kicking and screaming, complaining and whining. We are going to grow our majority accomplishment by accomplishment,” said Ron Bonjean, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.
The simmering political climate in the House was on full display at a Democratic press conference earlier this month when Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said her party’s strategy was to continue to attack the GOP agenda in Congress in an attempt to bring down the Republicans’ polls before offering a more positive message.
“It is important for us to take down their numbers. To take down their numbers on Social Security. To take down their numbers on credibility,” she said July 14.
Mr. Hastert shot back that such remarks “revealed that their agenda is a cynical playbook of partisan politics, which only poisons the well for members who are working together this week in a bipartisan way to move America forward.”
“While the House minority leader will be plotting her irresponsible political strategy, House Republicans will be working overtime to pass national-security legislation that will help keep Americans safe from terrorism. The rhetoric from the angry left is simply irresponsible,” he said.
Polling data on how voters perceive Democratic lawmakers versus the Republicans is meager, but Republican pollster David Winston said his surveys produced two clear findings.
“Republicans have a clear plan and brand image. The Democrats’ brand image is a kind of mush. Voters are trying to figure out what it is they are for,” Mr. Winston said.
Still, House Republican leadership officials acknowledge they will have to do a better job of communicating to their constituents what they have done if they are to overcome the Democratic attacks that capture much of the press coverage.
One part of the Republican Party’s new strategy is to play up how many Democrats vote for their bills — often nearly 25 percent or higher.
They point, for example, to last week’s 257-171 vote to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act with the support of 43 Democrats.
In the coming week, House Republican leaders are planning a “media blitz to get through to the American people how bipartisan this Congress really is,” which will include an end-of-session rally to promote their accomplishments, Mr. Bonjean said.