One of the Senate’s first votes upon returning to Washington from its holiday break Monday will be on a bill reviving emergency unemployment benefits that lapsed at the end of 2013.
The vote marks the first concrete step by Democrats toward a populist economic platform ahead of the November elections. The inequality campaign will intensify later in the year with a push in the Senate to raise the federal minimum wage that will be synced with President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, which is expected to dig heavily into the issue of economic disparity.
The focus on income inequality builds on the economic themes Obama successfully harnessed to beat Mitt Romney in 2012. Democrats believe they can win again by spotlighting the growing divides between the rich and poor and daring Republicans to oppose legislation aimed at benefiting low-income Americans.
“Our Republican colleagues should take note. Certainly we’re going to build on the progress we’ve made to reduce the deficit, but it is no longer the most important issue that we face,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in laying out Senate Democrats’ agenda for the coming year. “Issues like job creation, minimum wage and unemployment insurance are going to weigh on the minds of voters far more than Obamacare by the time the 2014 elections roll around.”
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