Thursday, October 8, 2009

One 2010 Campaign Issue You Might Not Know About

Summary: Will a largely unnoticed vote come back to haunt two vulnerable Senators?

Republicans and Democrats alike are already framing their messages on a recent Senate vote that could hurt a few GOP politicians next year.

From The Scorecard:

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) offered an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contracts to companies who prevent victims from filing lawsuits against sexual assault and harassment.

Franken proposed the amendment after hearing the story of Jamie Leigh Jones, who alleges that she was brutally raped while working a contractor for Halliburton/KBR in Iraq.

But Jones was unable to press charges in court because her defense contract stipulated that any such allegations can only be heard in private arbitration.

Franken’s amendment, which passed 68-30, received the support of 10 Republican senators. However, most Republicans opposed the amendment because it went against the wishes of the Defense Department, and argued it gave Congress too much influence in altering defense contracts.

Those concerns, however, are immaterial to Democratic strategists, who believe the vote will be politically costly to the two Republican senators facing competitive races – Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.).

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pounced after the vote, putting out a statement attacking Vitter “for choosing special interests over justice and the interests of the American taxpayers.”

And a senior Democratic strategist working on defeating Vitter told POLITICO that the vote will “very likely” come up in a campaign ad next year.

Republicans point out that the amendment was opposed by a host of business interests, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and applies to a wide range of companies, including IBM and Boeing.

“This misleading, partisan attack makes clear yet again just how out of touch Democrats in Washington are with the serious issues facing average Americans," said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh.

"Our country is facing rising unemployment, a record federal debt and and more government spending than at any point in history. Yet, the Democrats are talking about Halliburton."

It’s not exactly easy to defend a “no” vote on that amendment. It might not be a nail in the coffin for Vitter and Burr, but it sure won’t help them with the female demographic. Even conservative women will have an adverse response to these Republicans when they see the attack ads that will come from that vote.

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