Largely powerless, House Democrats seek to influence debate over looming budget cuts

Chris Moody
Political Reporter
The Ticket

As the minority party in the House, Democrats are largely shut out of meaningful debates over the impending budget sequestration, but their lack of influence on the process hasn't kept them silent.

Most of the negotiating over how to avoid the $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts to projected federal spending over the next decade, set to begin March 1, has been between House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House. Democrats in the lower chamber, however, are engaging in an ongoing messaging campaign that blames Republicans if the sequester becomes reality, and backs up President Barack Obama's call for higher taxes as part of a package to blunt the impact of the cuts.

Even though the House is out of session this week, the Democratic Steering & Policy Committee on Thursday afternoon will host an unofficial hearing that features a panel of workers and representatives from industries that would be forced to cut back.

Scheduled for broadcast on C-SPAN, it will feature testimonies about the sequestration's impact from a Florida teacher, a representative from the Aerospace Industries Association, a professor from George Mason University, and the secretary of the Washington State Department of Health. For weeks, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, has called on the House to remain in session until both sides find a resolution.

The messaging effort coincides with a new sequestration-themed ad campaign by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that targets 27 vulnerable House Republicans in the 2014 midterm elections. The online video, which pins the blame for the sequester on the Republicans and is tailored for each of the 27 lawmakers, will run in their districts beginning on Thursday. "The Tea Party Congress of Chronic Chaos Strikes Again," blares the headline on the video.

Republicans, meanwhile, have undergone their own public relations campaign to blame Democrats, particularly Obama, for coming up with the idea for the automatic cuts in the first place.

The resources poured into the messaging suggests that both sides are betting that no deal to avoid the sequester will be reached, so they're each working to ensure the other side takes the heat when the hammer falls.