WASHINGTON (CN) – Senate Democrats said their top priority when they return from their August break will be to create jobs, pushing climate and immigration issues to the back burner.
At a press conference outside the Senate chamber held just before senators left for their August recess Friday, Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island said they will pit themselves against Republicans in the fall by asking, “Whose side are you on?” when it comes to big oil, small businesses and offshoring jobs.
Menendez accused Republicans of sticking to a method of “obstruction, delay and stall” over the past 19 months, which he equated to putting a car in “R” for “Reverse” or “Republicans,” as opposed to putting it in “D” for “Drive” and “Democrats.”
Republicans have accused Democrats of refusing to allow for debate on any Republican amendments to recent bills, forcing Republicans to vote oppose the passage.
Menendez and Whitehouse said that, before November elections, Senate Democrats want to pass a bill to aid small businesses, an energy bill, and a bill to remove the $75 million liability cap for oil spills to ensure that “those who mess up have to clean up,” according to Menendez.
When asked if the Senate would take on climate legislation this fall, Menendez joked, “Well, the climate’s hot. It’s very hot out there.”
He said Democrats hoped to pass a climate bill before the end of the year. They also want to permanently extend tax cuts for the middle class and let tax cuts expire for Americans making more than $200,000 per year. Democrats are also seeking to repeal tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas.
Whitehouse said that because traditional political methods of negotiating with Republicans to secure votes have not been successful, Democrats will have to “force the question” by getting the tide of public opinion to side with Democrats.
“If we’re prepared to be persistent and if we define the issue properly than you don’t need that kind of negotiation,” Whitehouse said. “The will of the people will work its way in the Senate.”
Menendez said the lame duck session following November elections will afford lawmakers a chance to pass legislation without the usual political pressures.