GOP ramps up pressure on vulnerable Democrats in spending fight

GOP ramps up pressure on vulnerable Democrats in spending fight
© Greg Nash

Republican groups are ratcheting up the pressure on vulnerable Democrats to vote against the multitrillion-dollar reconciliation package in the House as lawmakers prepare to face what could be uphill reelection bids.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) rolled out a slate of ads last week hitting vulnerable House Democrats for voting for a procedural motion last month allowing committees to draft the $3.5 trillion bill, while the American Action Network announced last week it was investing $1.5 million in ads in five districts.

The conservative Club for Growth said it will spend $300,000 to run digital and television ads in 10 congressional districts, but added it was the first phase of a strategy for spending $2 million opposing the package. And on Saturday, the Common Sense Leadership Fund rolled out a $10 million ad buy that will run over the course of 10 days in 14 House districts.

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“This reconciliation bill is going to be the gift that keeps on giving for Republicans,” said Republican strategist and former NRCC spokesperson Matt Gorman.

The efforts paint Democrats as reckless with spending and kowtowing to a list of progressive demands under the leadership of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiJudge to hear Trump's case against Jan. 6 committee in November Kamala Harris engages with heckler during New York speech GOP lawmaker calls for Meghan, Harry to lose royal titles over paid leave push MORE (D-Calif.).

“We’re seeing pressure coming from everyone in the GOP ecosystem on this front,” one national Republican strategist told The Hill. “It’s basically sending the message that if you vote for this, you will lose.”

The NRCC’s ads targeted Reps. Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerModerates split over climate plans in Democrats' spending package Bleak midterm outlook shadows bitter Democratic battle Democrats downplay deadlines on Biden's broad spending plan MORE (D-N.J.), Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.), Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), Jim CostaJames (Jim) Manuel CostaBiden leaves meeting saying 'it doesn't matter' when bill is passed LIVE COVERAGE: Biden tries to unify divided House WHIP LIST: How House Democrats, Republicans say they'll vote on infrastructure bill MORE (D-Calif.), Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderHouse passes bills to secure telecommunications infrastructure Democrats weigh changes to drug pricing measure to win over moderates Internal battles heat up over Biden agenda MORE (D-Ore.).

Additionally, the committee shipped doormats to the lawmakers as a message accusing them of letting Pelosi walk all over them.

“These Democrats promised to stand up to Nancy Pelosi’s reckless tax and spending spree then let Pelosi walk all over them,” NRCC Chairman Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerDemocrats face grim political reality in midterms GOP's embrace of Trump's false claims creates new perils McAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington MORE (R-Minn.) said in a statement last week. “Democrats’ reckless spending is causing prices to rise, and their massive tax hikes will make things even harder for American families trying to recover from a pandemic.”

Meanwhile, the American Action Network’s ads aired in the districts of Reps. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyDemocratic retirements could make a tough midterm year even worse On The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Climate divides conservative Democrats in reconciliation push MORE (D-Fla.), Gonzalez, Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaYoungkin under fire for invoking George Soros in school board debate Former VA secretaries propose National Warrior Call Day to raise military suicide awareness Business groups create new headache for Pelosi MORE (D-Va.), Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerHouse passes bills to secure telecommunications infrastructure McAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington Jill Biden campaigns for McAuliffe in Virginia MORE (D-Va.) and Sharice DavidsSharice DavidsPennsylvania Republican becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress Lawmakers laud diversity gains in Congress Biden meets with vulnerable House Democrats with agenda in limbo  MORE (D-Kan.).

In Virginia and Kansas, the group highlighted rising inflation, taxes and utilities, while in Texas it focused on the impact the legislation could have on oil production and natural gas. In Florida, the group focused on rising prices and inflation.

Republicans argue Democrats have also botched the messaging on the plan, making it easier for Republicans to go on the offense.

“Look how it’s being talked about,” Gorman said. “You’re not talking about what’s in it, you’re not even calling it a stimulus bill, you’re not even calling it an infrastructure bill. It’s a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. That’s how it’s been defined and that tells you in essence why they failed the messaging part of this.

But Democrats argue the package is filled with initiatives that are generally popular with voters, including a federally paid-for paid family leave program and tax incentives for clean energy and electric vehicles. Democrats say the plan would be paid for through raising taxes on corporations and individuals earning more than $400,0000 a year.

“Republicans are desperate to distract from the fact that House Democrats are the ones to thank for getting our economy back on track while every Republican voted to block the very measures responsible for our economic recovery,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Chris Taylor.

“Now their wealthy, Big Pharma allies are trying to stop our once-in-a-generation investment in the American people to protect their profits. The American people support our agenda and we won’t be distracted from delivering on these needed investments for working families.”

Democrats finished much of the committee work on the $3.5 trillion package that consists of social benefits and climate programs, but the party is facing infighting over provisions in the legislation. There are questions as to whether Democrats will even have the votes to pass the package, with clashes over a cost-slashing drug benefit and a battle over tax benefits on the House floor.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted Wednesday, 24-19, to advance the $3.5 trillion package, with all Republicans and Murphy voting against the measure, which calls for raising some taxes to pay for the investments in the bill.

Murphy, who was targeted by the American Action Network’s ads, said that some of the tax and spending provisions in the package gave her “pause” and as a result she could not “vote for the bill at this early stage.”

“As this process moves forward,” she said, “I remain optimistic that the comprehensive reconciliation package will be appropriately targeted and fiscally responsible — paid for by tax provisions that promote fairness but do not hurt working families.”

Democrats are also facing pressure from progressives within their party urging them to support the package. On Monday, progressive protesters showed up outside Gottheimer’s home in New Jersey calling on him to support the legislation.

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But Democrats point out that negotiations on the bill are ongoing. Senior House Democrats Reps. James Clyburn (S.C.) and John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthDemocrats at odds with Manchin over child tax credit provision The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden, Democrats dig into legislative specifics Two House Democrats to retire ahead of challenging midterms MORE (Ky.) took to the Sunday talk shows and suggested that the spending package could end up being slimmed down.

On top of that, Axios reported Sunday that Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinHow 'Buy American', other pro-US policies can help advocates pass ambitious climate policies Photos of the Week: Manchin protestor, Paris Hilton and a mirror room Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Biden seeks to quell concerns over climate proposals MORE (D-W.Va.) has been saying behind closed doors that he believes Democrats should take a “strategic pause” until next year before voting on the package.

But the Democrats who are being targeted by Republicans appear to be waiting to see how negotiations pan out.

“It’s early on,” Luria told The Hill at a campaign event in Norfolk, Va., on Friday. “There will be a lot of negotiations back and forth where it ends up, so like any piece of legislation, I’m going to wait to see the final product before I make a decision. But I’ll say that there’s a lot of important things that we’re talking about for the environment and for our communities, so I just have to wait and see the final product.”

Luria dismissed the notion that she felt pressure by the recent conservative effort to target her and other Democrats.

“Probably 365 days a year there’s someone running an ad,” she said. “That’s just the nature of being in a seat that the Republicans always think they can take back.”