Unions target Democratic Senators Warner, McCaskill on fiscal cliff

Olivier Knox
The Ticket

Three major national unions are targeting Democratic Senators Mark Warner of Virginia and Claire McCaskill of Missouri — and two Republican congressmen — with a barrage of ads warning against cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid as part of any "fiscal cliff" deal.

The ads mean to hammer home that the negotiations could to lead "more than just a deal of high, large concepts here in Washington DC," National Education Association (NEA) Government Relations Director Mary Kusler told Yahoo News by telephone Thursday. "It will impact real people and communities."

The commercials, underwritten by the NEA, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), show a literal take on seniors coping with reduced health funding — a shrunken walker, a tiny hospital gown, half a pair of eyeglasses, an empty prescription drug bottle.

"Call Senator Warner and tell him: Don't make a bad deal that cuts our care," the narrator says in the ad that will run in Virginia.

The ads target Warner, McCaskill, Montana Representative Denny Rehberg (a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee) and Ohio Representative Pat Tiberi (a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee).

Why those lawmakers?

Kusler noted Warner's "outspoken advocacy for a very large deal" that the unions worry may "put something on the table in terms of cuts (to entitlements) that will really impact individuals." "We want to make sure that he realizes that there's a lot of people watching the decisions that he's making."

Organized labor has grown "concerned with some rumblings coming out of Senator McCaskill," Kusler said, pointing to a recent St Louis Post-Dispatch article in which the senator pushed for a large-scale deal and said the details of the accord "are less important than the fact that we can reach a compromise and would be $4 trillion in long-term debt reduction. That means everybody's going to hurt a little and everyone is not going to get their way."

"The details are exactly what matter in this entire discussion," Kusler said. "This is a discussion about the programs that impact the lives of working Americans, and seniors, and students."

The two Republicans are "leaders in their party on the issues of funding and taxes," and have shown a willingness to "put policy in front of party" and "vote independently on criticial issues," Kusler said.

The organizations unveiled the ads even as negotiations between President Barack Obama and his Republican foes in Congress appeared to be barely inching towards an agreement to avert the "fiscal cliff" — a package of automatic tax hikes and deep government spending cuts triggered January 1. Experts warn those measures threaten to plunge the economy into a new recession.