WASHINGTON – Rep. Bob Beauprez of Colorado will be confronted by waffles, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. Rep. Nancy Johnson of Connecticut will see her face plastered on an oversize milk carton. When Rep. Jerry Weller of Illinois marches in a parade, he'll be tailed by someone in a duck costume.
As House Republicans move ahead with plans to vote on Social Security (search) changes this summer, a Democratic opposition group will use the July Fourth recess to pressure GOP lawmakers it believes are undecided about the legislation or susceptible to criticism from their constituents.
The tactics will be far removed from the customs and decorum normally observed on the House floor.
"Beauprez is planning to run for governor; he cares about people all over the state. ... Bring waffles to all events," reads a plan drafted by Americans United to Protect Social Security, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.
"Johnson is missing when it comes to defending Social Security. She refuses to take a stand. ... Major tactics: milk carton — 'Where is Johnson?' 'Johnson Missing,"' it also says.
The plan adds: "July 2-4, tailing Weller with duck costume (as in, stop 'ducking' the issue) at public events/parades."
The congressmen targeted are all members of the House Ways and Means Committee (search), which will be the first panel in the House to review the legislation. Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., the committee's chairman, expects a vote before Congress takes its summer recess at the end of the month.
While the panel is split 24-17 in favor of the GOP, and Thomas is known to rule it with an iron fist, even some of his fellow Republicans have been slow to embrace the changes proposed by President Bush, or outlined in recent weeks by four Republican committee members, Reps. Jim McCrery of Louisiana, Clay Shaw of Florida, Sam Johnson of Texas and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
"The Republican members of the Ways and Means Committee, many of whom have straddled the fence, waffled or flip-flopped on the issue of privatization (search), are having their arms twisted nearly off by Thomas and the House Republican leadership to support this new privatization bill," Americans United writes in its battle plan.
The group proposes to fight back by picketing Shaw's congressional office with signs accusing him of forgetting about less-wealthy constituents. It also focuses on a fellow Florida Republican on the committee, Rep. Mark Foley, with unusually brusque language.
"Foley is not as concerned (as Shaw) about an electoral challenge, but has many seniors," it reads. "Thin-skinned squealer."
The congressman, who is undecided about any of the plans, said during an interview the campaign smacks of desperation by Democrats and their allies.
Democrats have pointedly refused to offer an alternative until the president drops his accounts proposal. They argue that establishing the accounts is part of an overall effort to transform the program from one providing a guaranteed benefit check to one that provides benefits subject to the ups and downs of the stock market.
"If you're describing a program that has such an impact on seniors, which Social Security is, and your rallying cry is to make such pejorative statements about members, I think you're starting off on the wrong foot," Foley said. "It's so juvenile that they're engaging in a debate without an option, an answer, but they're using a vernacular that indicates they're nothing more than a ragtag group of rebels."
Jordan Stoick, spokesman for Beauprez, said he expects his boss to chuckle when he sees the waffles.
"He's not politically naéve and will take this for what it's worth: a ploy by liberal Washington, D.C., special-interest groups," Stoick said.