As they set out to persuade mid-term election voters this fall, Democrats in Congress will argue they are "making progress" in turning around the economy, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a gathering of state legislators in Kentucky today.
Republicans will counter that the Democrats in Washington have "gotten carried away" and are grabbing vast new powers at the expense of future generations, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told the same gathering a few moments later.
The rivaling speeches between the two congressional leaders on the same stage in Louisville Monday morning offered an early glimpse at how each party plans to position its candidates for the mid-term election battles this fall.
Pelosi spoke first, telling some 6,000 state lawmakers who were gathered for a conference in Louisville that the Recovery Act had created or saved 3.6 million jobs.
"We are making progress," she said, "but as we all know, much more needs to be done."
Pelosi signaled that her party will be trying to show the contrasts between Democratic control over the past two years with the Republican leadership during the previous eight. Pelosi took several not-so-subtle swipes at President George W. Bush -- though not by name -- telling the crowd that "more jobs were created in the first eight months of 2010 then were created in all eight years under the previous administration."
She also tried to brace Democrats the audience for anticipated attacks on the growth of the federal deficit, which is projected to reach record highs both this year and next. Noting that she is both a mother and grandmother, Pelosi said, "we don't want to leave bills to any future generations."
When he took the stage, McConnell pushed back forcefully, saying the public is outraged at "the massive federal debt being passed to our children."
The Republican leader said he welcomed Pelosi in his home state, but added pointedly: "There's a big difference between getting along and agreeing on the issues."
McConnell said every major piece of legislation being pushed through by Democrats -- "on strict party line votes" -- has given more control to the federal government over the everyday lives of average Americans. He referred specifically to healthcare reform, financial regulatory reform and the recovery act.
"Every single one of them centralizes power in Washington," he said. "Washington has assumed vast new powers that makes life more difficult for the states."
McConnell said states have been forced to choose between federal subsidies and local control.
"Nobody wants to say no to free money. The problem is, none of it is really free," he said.
The two political rivals never shared the stage.