WASHINGTON -- Progressives are targeting the Senate Democrats’ top message and policy maestro, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, telling him not to "cave" on key investment priorities in spending negotiations with Republicans.
The group Progressive Change Campaign Committee is delivering that message through its New York members after a Washington Post op-ed said Schumer and his colleagues have concluded the only jobs bill Republicans will let pass would be based on tax cuts -- not infrastructure spending, investments in education and other areas aimed at spurring longterm job-growth.
So the group is asking members to call Schumer and tell him to fight, rather than settle for whatever Republicans say they will accept at the outset.
"Democrats shouldn't be seeking the lowest common denominator with extremist Republicans -- that's not leadership," says an email sent to New Yorkers from PCCC’s Jason Rosenbaum. “They should fight for the real investments in jobs that America needs."
Schumer spokesman Brian Fallon countered that his boss is indeed determined to win the items PCCC is talking about.
“The group is mistaken if they think Sen. Schumer isn’t fighting for measures like infrastructure, as well as tax cuts, when it comes to job creation,” Fallon said. “He agrees both approaches are necessary, and has advocated them both privately and publicly.”
Still, having watched Senate Democrats give in on liberal priorities over the last two years, PCCC thinks Schumer needs to be pushed to try harder.
"This isn't about Chuck Schumer's preferences -- it's about his strategy and willingness to fight,” said group co-founder Adam Green. “Will Democrats propose a major jobs investment bill, fight for it, rally the public around it, bring it to a vote, and dare Republicans to vote against it? Or will they pre-emptively capitulate before the fight even begins?"
Some Senate Democrats recently felt similarly about their budget committee chairman, North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad, and recently forced him to shelve a plan that they felt was too far to the right.
Schumer was not publicly critical of Conrad, but he was believed to be more in line with the more liberal-wing of the party. He has also argued for many of the items PCCC supports in the past.
But the group is hoping for a stronger stance now.
“Chuck Schumer is known as a smart guy. But in this case, being smart means recognizing that when the public is on your side, you don’t pre-emptively cave,” Rosenbaum wrote, referring to polling that his group has done showing Americans favor investing in infrastructure and jobs. “You certainly don’t give Republicans a veto."
“You lay out a big vision, mobilize the public around it, and dare Republicans to oppose it,” he argued. “After all, the big lesson of Paul Ryan’s budget is that if Democrats fight and mobilize the public, Republicans will backtrack and cave.”