House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi addresses the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)
CHARLOTTE, N.C.— President Barack Obama has had harsh words for Congress, and no doubt there are more ahead as the campaign unfurls. So House Democrats have a simple message this week: Don’t blame us.
House Democratic leaders have been trumpeting their accomplishments in an effort to inoculate themselves from attacks on Congress and to set themselves apart from the dismal public perception of the institution as a whole.
In fact, Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) said, there is a distinction to be made.
“I don’t think the president is running against Congress,” he said. “The president is running against a Republican do-nothing Congress that tried to stop and thwart everything that he tried to do.”
Republicans are quick to point out that Democrats control the Senate and the White House, and that several bills they have passed have languished in the Senate. And there is a bit of branding going into the House Democratic effort, too.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) debuted a professionally produced video before her speaking engagements this week at the Democratic National Convention and it again introduce her as she took the main stage Wednesday night.
Paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the video is essentially a commercial for House Democrats and is striking in that it touts just one party in one chamber in one branch of the government.
“We are the House Democrats. Our purpose is to reignite the American Dream. And we have work to do,” the narrator says.
Pelosi has been eager to point out that when she was Speaker, she worked with President George W. Bush to increase the minimum wage. That productivity, she said, did not stop when Obama took office.
“When President Obama came in, we accomplished a great deal. I subscribe to those who say we’re probably the most productive — in a good way — Congress in modern history,” she said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Wednesday. “When [Republicans] came in: ‘No’ at every turn.” She added, “I have no complaint about how the president is running. He should be running against Congress.”
Republicans have leveled similar charges against Senate Democrats, accusing them of declining to pass a budget plan in order to protect Members who are running for re-election in competitive races.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen echoed Pelosi’s sentiments in a sit down interview with Roll Call on Wednesday afternoon.
“The president’s absolutely right,” the Maryland Democrat said. “The American people have clearly identified this Congress with the tea party obstructionists, because the reality is Republicans have effective control over what … cannot pass through the majority of the House and the veto-proof Senate.”
How hard Obama slams Congress, or whether he chooses to do so at all in his nomination speech tonight, remains to be seen.
But regardless, House Democrats are hoping that the message the video conveys can unify their Caucus and place them above the fray.