One running theme of deficit reduction negotiations is that both parties support domestic spending cuts in their opening bids -- Republicans demand them, and Democrats champion them alongside tax increases for high income earners.
Now a coalition of three labor unions -- AFSCME, SEIU and National Education Association -- are launching a six-figure ad buy pressuring swing-state Senate Democrats and targeted House Republicans to oppose spending cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and education -- three items that neither side has taken off the table in talks about defusing a looming austerity bomb.
The ad campaign reflects an effort to upend a Washington status quo where Democrats are pushing for spending cuts to lure Republicans into supporting tax increases. The groups are nervous that President Obama and Democrats may go along with a deal that cuts the safety net.
"We haven't heard any assurances [from the White House or Democratic leadership] on anything at this point," Mary Kusler, director of government relations for NEA, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. "That's why we're continuing to remind everybody that we need to craft a deal that puts middle class families first."
On the call, the three groups unveiled a new survey they commissioned, conducted by the Mellman Group, which said voters would oppose a "grand bargain" that goes after programs like Social Security, Medicare, education and funding for local police and firefighters.
"None of these programs need to be cut to reduce the deficit," said AFSCME's director of federal government affairs Charles Loveless. "The overwhelming majority, 53 percent, want taxes increased on the wealthy, and want to see these core programs protected."
Three 30-second TV ads titled Jobs Not Cuts airing in Colorado, Virginia and Missouri call on Democratic Sens. Michael Bennett (CO), Mark Udall (CO), Mark Warner (VA), Jim Webb (VA) and Claire McCaskill (MO) to tame the deficit "not by cutting programs that families rely on most" and work toward protecting Medicare, Medicaid and education from cuts."
Peter Colavito, SEIU's director of government relations, said "these leading Democrats are important voices within their Senate caucus" in brokering a deal.
Separate 1-minute radio ads called Can't Wait seek to jolt members of the Republican-controlled House into extending the middle income tax cuts, which GOP leaders are refusing to do unless Democrats agree to also continue the lower top-bracket tax rates.
"There's one thing that both parties can agree on: we should raise taxes on the middle class. But if Congress fails to act soon, that's exactly what will happen," says a narrator in the ad, which targets Republican Reps. Pat Meehan (PA), Mike Fitzpatrick (PA), Don Young (AK) and Jo Ann Emerson (MO) in their respective states.
"Congress should act quickly to preserve the middle class tax cuts," the narrator says, "and that will take leaders willing to put people over partisan politics."