Grasping for 'Accomplishments'

Dem report listing Senate’s achievements contains falsehoods, omissions, distortions, etc.

Harry Reid, Charles Schumer / AP
October 3, 2012

A report from the Democratic Policy and Communications Center (DPCC) listing the Democratic Senate majority’s "Accomplishments in the 112th Congress" contains distortions, exaggerations, omissions, and falsehoods.

The report, obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, bemoans Republican obstructionism, citing "109 filibusters by Senate Republicans this Congress alone," but hails legislation passed through the chamber that "will create jobs, cut taxes, strengthen national security, and honor our nation’s veterans."

The report does not mention, however, the Republican charge that the Senate has killed "nearly 40 of our jobs bills."

New York Sen. Charles Schumer chairs the DPCC, a post he assumed in 2010 after Democrats lost control of the House and ceded a margin of their Senate majority to Republicans.

Here are five examples of incomplete, misleading, or simply incorrect information in the report:

1. Libya and Terrorists

AP Images

Democrats take credit for toppling Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. The headline of the section reads: "Helping to Topple Qaddafi’s Terrorist Regime in Libya."

Data within the document indicate that it was last edited on Sept. 27 in Microsoft Word—over two weeks after terrorists stormed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi and murdered four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Schumer’s office and the DPCC have not returned requests to verify the date of the document.

"With Libya’s brutal dictator gone, Libyans are working to build democratic institutions and conduct historic elections as they continue their transition to democracy," the document reads.

The report’s omission of recent developments in the north African country dismayed a senior Republican aide.

"Senate Democrats should be more focused on answering questions about what happened in Benghazi than in finding ways to brag about their so-called success in Libya. The fact that they’re high-fiving each other just two weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks shows they’re either completely out of touch, really desperate for accomplishments, or both," he said.

The Democrats take at least partial credit for killing Osama bin Laden, as well.

"With Senate Democrats’ support, President Obama made finding and killing bin Laden a top priority for U.S. national security and executed a focused, sustained effort that succeeded in killing the world’s most wanted terrorist."

2. Payroll Tax Cut

Harry Reid, Charles Schumer / AP

Senate Democrats hail an extension of the payroll tax cut, saying that it "is estimated to increase employment by 400,000" and put "an additional $1,000 in the pockets of American families on average."

However, the section hailing the payroll tax cut extension fails to mention that the cut will most likely expire on Jan. 1, which the New York Times noted Monday could cost the economy 1 million jobs.

The tax cut is an extension of an already existing tax break, and letting it expire would eliminate around 400,000 jobs and siphon $1,000 from families per year, according to the Washington Post.

"But there is still little desire to make an extension part of the negotiations that are under way to avert the huge tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts, known as the fiscal cliff, that will start in January without a deal," according to the Times.

3. Postal Service Reform

"Senate Democrats passed legislation to modernize the postal service and give it the flexibility to maintain critical functions while adapting to changes in the way people use the mail system," the report says.

This statement, however, ignores that the Senate bill had bipartisan support (and bipartisan opposition).

The report also blasts Republicans for being "idle in the face of the Post Office’s first ever default—on $5.5 billion of future retiree health benefits," and lists an August Reuters story to substantiate the claim.

But the Reuters report notes House Republicans argued at the time that the bill merely bought USPS more time, rather than solved any structural issues. The Senate Democrats' bill would have allowed USPS "to dip into a retirement fund surplus to offer retirement incentives to workers" and ended Saturday mail after two years, according to Reuters.

4. Judicial Appointments

President Obama / AP

Senate Democrats celebrated their confirmation of "14 U.S. Circuit Court nominees and 86 U.S. District Court nominees," overcoming what they call "unprecedented obstruction" against the president’s nominees.

"Senate Democrats have continued to push for confirmation of superbly qualified nominees," the report says, before listing several new judges.

These judges include "the first Asian Pacific American woman to serve on a U.S. Court of Appeals," "the first Latino to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit," and "the first openly gay man to be confirmed to serve on a Federal district court."

The report does not discuss the qualifications of the confirmed judges, however.

The report cites a Senate Republican who "admits" that the obstruction "constitutes a ‘new standard’ for President Obama’s nominees."

The Republican, Mike Lee of Utah, actually made his statement about Obama’s nominees in response to Obama’s recess appointments. Lee said:

Prior to President Obama’s unconstitutional "recess" appointments, I gave his judicial nominees great deference. Both in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor, I have voted in favor of the vast majority of the president’s nominees, including many with whom I fundamentally disagree. But I can do so no more. There is and must be a new standard for the president’s judicial nominations. A standard under which a problematic and controversial nominee such as Mr. Hurwitz cannot receive my support.

"Democrats need to get their story straight on judges," a senior Republican aide said. "They can either brag about getting judges confirmed or complain about judges being blocked, but not both. Republicans have been entirely consistent on this point. We support qualified judges who believe that the Constitution means what it says and who support the rule of law without equivocation."

5. Budget Control Act

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta / AP

Democrats celebrate the Budget Control Act in the report:

The Act is a bipartisan compromise that establishes overall spending levels and will reduce the deficit by $2.1 trillion over ten years. The BCA calls for the largest package of spending cuts in the history of the United States, while protecting Social Security, Medicare beneficiaries, and programs for the most vulnerable.

The Democrats do not mention, however, that the Budget Control Act includes sequestration, which involves massive cuts to the defense budget, among other areas.

The looming sequestration cuts are building tremendous anxiety within the government and in the defense industry at large. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, regarding Congressional negotiations to avoid the sequestration, "I'll take whatever the hell deal they can make right now."

The Democratic Senators also try to use the Budget Control Act as a way to counter the Republican claim that the Senate has not passed a budget in three years. The report references a Senate Budget Committee report that claims that the Budget Control Act "contained the budget for this year."

Politifact has rated Republicans’ charge against the Senate as true, however.

The DPCC did not return a request for comment on the report.