Decoding The Democrats' New 2014 Agenda

Credit: Susan Walsh/AP Photo

With their control of the Senate in jeopardy, Democrats unveiled a new agenda today in hopes of moving beyond the fierce Republican backlash of the health care law by trying to change the subject to a focus on pocketbook issues in the midterm elections.

The White House and Congressional Democrats are launching a coordinated campaign to draw attention to their effort to raise the minimum wage to $10.10, eliminate the pay gap between men and women and lower interest rates on college loans.

The proposals are almost certain to be blocked in the Republican-controlled House.

So, what are they really attempting to do?

Democrats are trying to force votes in the Senate to highlight their economic-fairness argument - and put Republicans in a tough spot.

"This is an agenda for the middle class, politics that will help ensure a fair shot for everyone," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters today as he unveiled the plan, standing next to a large billboard trumpeting their new message: "A fair shot for everyone."

Democrats are fighting to retain control of the Senate, a fragile majority that rests on only six seats. Democrats are facing stiff headwinds - since historically the president's party routinely loses seats during midterm elections - and sustained opposition to the nation's new health care law.

The GOP enter the midterm election season with the advantage of a favorable political map, with Democrats trying to hold onto seats in deeply-red states that President Obama lost.

Senator Chuck Schumer, of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, said seizing upon the opposition to the health care law would backfire as a top issue for Republicans. He said similar strategies in 2010 and 2012 failed.

"What did the Republicans make the No. 1 issue? Obamacare. What did democrats make the No. 1 issue? an agenda like this," Schumer said. "What happened? We picked up seats in the Senate, we carried the presidency by a large amount. This agenda is what the American people want to hear."

The Democratic agenda includes bringing a series of bills to the Senate floor for a vote, including measures with titles designed to catch the attention of voters in the mid-term campaign: Minimum Wage Fairness Act, Paycheck Fairness Act and Bring Jobs Home Act.

Republicans scoffed at the newfound Democratic agenda, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell mocking the plan on the Senate floor. He said the plan could be summed up in three words: "Political show votes" that would turn "the Senate floor into a campaign studio."

"I'm asking Washington Democrats to put the ideology and political show votes aside for once and finally join us," McConnell said, "join us to give the American people what they've been asking for all along: more jobs, more opportunity, and an economy that works for the Middle Class again."

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