Democrats ramp up spending sales pitch

Democrats are ramping up their sales pitch to voters as they bet big on government spending and lay the groundwork for their 2022 midterm message.

They are trying to distill two complex, massive legislative priorities — the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law and a $4.1 trillion infrastructure and social spending package — into a fairly simple message: This wouldn’t be happening without President BidenJoe BidenHouse Republican calls second bout of COVID-19 'far more challenging' Conflicting school mask guidance sparks confusion Biden: Pathway to citizenship in reconciliation package 'remains to be seen' MORE and Democrats at the helm.

The early focus on messaging comes as Democrats acknowledge that they’ve struggled, and sometimes overcomplicated, their strategy on how best to break through to voters.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We’re learning the value of simplicity. ... And so we’re getting better, but we still have a tendency to want to explain the policy as if we’re in negotiations with each other as opposed to talking about the value to regular people,” said Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzOn The Money: Stocks fall as COVID-19 fears rattle market | Schumer sets infrastructure showdown | Dems struggle to sell agenda The Hill's Morning Report - Surging COVID-19 infections loom over US, Olympics Democrats ramp up spending sales pitch MORE (D-Hawaii).

Democrats have launched a multipronged messaging blitz, with members putting control of Congress at the center of their debate over the two-track infrastructure strategy that includes the $1.2 trillion bipartisan deal that is still being drafted into legislation and an agreement on a $3.5 trillion top-line figure on a second Democratic-only package.

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCould Andrew Cuomo — despite scandals — be re-elected because of Trump? Democratic negotiator: 'I believe we will' have infrastructure bill ready on Monday DACA court ruling puts weight of immigration reform on Democrats MORE (D-N.Y.) sought to contrast the Democrats’ plan with the 2017 GOP tax-cut bill, appearing to refer to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center that found the top 1 percent would get 83 percent of the tax cuts from the GOP tax law in 2027. The report notes that the discrepancy is largely due to individual income tax cuts sunsetting after 2025.

“What a difference when Democrats are in power. You know what the top 1 percent got in the [coronavirus relief law]? Zero, nada, nothing. God bless them. They're doing great. They don't need it. Democrats, instead, are strengthening the backbone of the middle class, and that’s what we’re going to do in this jobs and families plan,” he said during a Senate floor speech last week.

Democrats are still fleshing out the details of their $3.5 trillion party-line plan but, according to a senior Democratic aide, it is expected to address climate change, extend beefed up money to families with children, include funding for universal pre-K for three- and four-year-old children and expand Medicare to include hearing, vision and dental, among other provisions.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalHouse Democrats grow frustrated as they feel ignored by Senate Schumer feels pressure from all sides on spending strategy Liberal House Democrats urge Schumer to stick to infrastructure ultimatum MORE (D-Wash.), during an interview with MSNBC, tied the proposal to Biden and Democrats controlling Congress.

ADVERTISEMENT

“If we hadn't had a president that had that kind of expansive vision, none of this would be happening. And if we didn't have a Senate and a House that were controlled by Democrats, none of that would be happening,” she said.

Republicans are betting that Democrats’ big spending will set off alarm bells among Americans and drive inflation higher, something GOP lawmakers see as a major vulnerability for Biden and his congressional allies heading into 2022.

Democrats still need to work out the details but are planning to fully pay for their $3.5 trillion plan, in part, by increasing taxes on some corporations and high-income individuals, in addition to stepped-up tax enforcement.

“I know it makes their progressive base happy, but those aren’t the people that are going to decide who runs the Congress in 2023. And I think both sides should really take heed and realize that they need to be talking to the Americans there who care about jobs and the economy and inflation,” said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneFrustration builds as infrastructure talks drag On The Money: Senate braces for nasty debt ceiling fight | Democrats pushing for changes to bipartisan deal | Housing prices hit new high in June Transit funding, broadband holding up infrastructure deal MORE (R-S.D.).

Democrats, while saying they share concerns about inflation, have batted down worries that their spending plans could cause the kind of dramatic spike pictured by Republicans.

Schumer told reporters that Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenOn The Money: Yellen to Congress: Raise the debt ceiling or risk 'irreparable harm' | Frustration builds as infrastructure talks drag Yellen to Congress: Raise the debt ceiling or risk 'irreparable harm' Africa doesn't deserve last place in the vaccine race MORE and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell believe the assistance Democrats are trying to enact is “certainly needed” and will help people get “better lives.”

Democrats today believe that a key mistake by the Obama administration was going so small that Americans might not have noticed the extra financial assistance coming from the federal government and not having a streamlined message for how the administration was helping the recovery from the Great Recession.

“This is a unique historic moment that none of us will ever find ourselves in again. And if we don’t deliver real results to the American people in a tangible way that they can feel, then our democracy is likely at risk,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia US launches second Somalia strike in week On The Money: Senate braces for nasty debt ceiling fight | Democrats pushing for changes to bipartisan deal | Housing prices hit new high in June MORE (D-Conn.).

Democrats have seen warning signs that they’re struggling to get their message out and counter GOP talking points.

A post-2020 election analysis, released in May by the centrist group Third Way, the Collective Political Action Committee and Latino Victory found that the party’s lack of a core economic and pandemic recovery argument contributed to its losses and that Republicans were able to successfully label Democrats as “radicals.”

And a pro-Biden outside group, Unite the Country, wrote in a memo last month that Democrats need to step up their efforts to tout Biden’s coronavirus plan and explain what’s in the American Jobs and Families plans, calling them “worryingly undefined.”

“Democrats must communicate much more aggressively to define success for the ARP and to explain why it is important to pass the American Jobs Act and the American Families Plan,” the memo says, referring to the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

ADVERTISEMENT

A June poll released by Data for Progress found that 51 percent of likely voters had heard little or nothing about the expanded child tax credit included in the coronavirus relief plan.

Democrats appear to be trying to fix that by blanketing cable networks, giving floor speeches, holding press conferences and hosting events in their home states to tout the expanded benefit. The coronavirus relief bill included a one-year expansion of the tax credit to provide $3,600, or $300 per month, for children under six and $3,000, or $250 per month, for children six through 17.

The monthly payments started hitting bank accounts on Thursday.

Schatz has floated calling the cash assistance that families receive because of the Democratic legislation “Biden bucks.”

“With the child tax credit, it’s money in your pocket. We should not outsmart ourselves and talk about anything other than we’re giving families a break,” Schatz said. “We need to keep it extremely simple.”

Democrats more broadly are pointing to the expanded benefit as being at the center of their governing philosophy and something that they, not Republicans, made happen.

ADVERTISEMENT

“In the end, government is always about whose side are you on,” said Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe White House on Cleveland Indians' name change: 'We certainly support their change of name' Key Biden ally OK with dropping transit from infrastructure package MORE (D-Ohio), adding that Democrats were “on the side of children, on the side of family, on the side of the future of this country.”

Schumer touted the expanded benefit from the Senate floor while standing next to a large poster board with the photo of a printed-off check for $300 and the words “courtesy of President Biden and congressional Democrats” outlined in a red box. At the bottom of the poster board was: “EVERY REPUBLICAN VOTED NO.”

Walking into a press conference later that day, Schumer spotted the poster propped up on an easel toward the edge of the stage. He promptly dragged it closer to the podium.

“Can everyone see it?” he asked reporters before quipping: “Where are the applause?”