Democrats to pitch 'A Better Deal' agenda: Focus on job training, lowering costs

Democrats to pitch 'A Better Deal' agenda: Focus on job training, lowering costs
Posted at 6:06 AM, Jul 24, 2017

Democrats will unveil an economic agenda Monday that leaders hope will bring together the progressive wing of their party and Democrats who voted for President Donald Trump, creating a united front and platform ahead of next year's midterm elections.

The plan -- under the slogan "A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future" -- is a three-pronged approach that focuses on improving wages, lowering costs of everyday expenses and boosting job-training opportunities.

Top Democrats will release the agenda Monday at an event in Berryville, Virginia, located in the congressional district represented by Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock -- a target seat that Democrats hope to flip in their favor next year.

Following their party's disastrous presidential loss in November, Democrats have been in a period of soul-searching as they seek a new message and cohesive identity in the Trump era.

"The number one thing that we did wrong is we didn't have -- we didn't tell people what we stood for," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday in an interview on ABC's "This Week."

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows a majority -- 52% of Americans -- sees the Democratic Party as a party that stands against Trump, while only 37% consider it a party that stands for something.

"They know we're standing up to Trump," Schumer said, pointing to the poll. "They like that. But they want to know, 'What do you stand for?'"

Trump referenced Schumer on Twitter Monday morning, writing: "After 1 year of investigation with Zero evidence being found, Chuck Schumer just stated that 'Democrats should blame ourselves, not Russia.'"

Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, respectively, wrote op-eds in The New York Times and The Washington Post Monday morning trumpeting the new agenda, which Pelosi said "represents a renewed Democratic commitment to the hard-working men and women across the United States who have been left out and left behind for too long."

Based on the new plan, expect to hear national Democrats to zero in on infrastructure, trade and outsourcing over the next year and a half. Child care, education and more access to the Internet will also be key Democratic talking points in races across the country.

Schumer said the new plan will appeal to workers who believe "that the system is rigged against them" and squeezes them out during an era of rapid economic and social changes.

He acknowledged Trump campaigned on a similar anti-establishment message but argued the President has since abandoned campaign promises in favor of more conservative policies.

The first three policy proposals of the new plan -- revealed in background material provided to reporters -- will focus on lowering prescription drug prices, reforming corporate merger policies and creating jobs for 10 million Americans.

To lower drug prices, Democrats want to create an independent agency designed to prevent price gouging and allow Medicare to negotiate with drug manufacturers for lower prices. The plan would also require drug companies to submit justification to the government for major price hikes 30 days before any would-be increases takes effect.

In terms of everyday costs, Democrats mention consolidations in the airline, cable, internet, phone, beer, food and eyeglass industries as especially problematic. They will propose changes in antitrust laws to prevent big corporate mergers that could result in increased prices and a "consumer competition advocate" that would help crack down an anti-competitive behavior.

The agenda also pledges to create jobs for 10 million Americans by doubling federal support for registered apprenticeship programs, giving tax credits to companies that train new workers and expand partnerships between businesses and schools.

Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats to retake the majority in the House. Historic trends of a president's party losing seats in the midterm elections of the president's first term coupled with Trump's low approval rating is giving Democrats hope of hitting that magic number.

The Senate, however, is a more daunting challenge. While Democrats only need a net gain of three seats, they're also defending 25 seats, 10 of which are in states that Trump won.

Absent from the "Better Deal" agenda is policy centered around health care, an issue for which Schumer feels Democrats have made their stance clear during the debate on President Barack Obama's signature domestic legislation, the Affordable Care Act, also more commonly known as Obamacare. However, an intra-party debate rages over whether Democrats should unite around a single-payer system.

Schumer acknowledged that single payer is among the proposals that Democrats might get behind, but he said other policies were on the table, such as a buy-in to Medicare and a buy-in to Medicaid.

More specific economic proposals will be rolled out as part of the new agenda in the coming months, Schumer said, "that are quite different than the Democratic Party you heard in the past."

"We were too cautious," he added. "We were too namby-pamby."