- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Dozens of House Democrats facing tough reelection races next year are in the crosshairs over a vote next week on President Biden’s $3.5 trillion infrastructure package.

Republican campaign officials are licking their chops over Democrats voting for the package next week, which they say exposes vulnerable incumbents to charges of backing socialist policies and runaway spending that fuels inflation.

“House Democrats can kiss their majority goodbye if they vote to impose tax hikes, amnesty and even higher prices on the American people,” said Michael McAdams, spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee, the House Republicans’ campaign arm.

Driving home the message, conservative American Action Network is running a $5 million ad campaign in 39 congressional districts to tie Democratic incumbents to the plan’s “new tax hikes, trillions in more spending, and another socialist health care plan.”

The bill, which Democrats teed up to pass in a party-line vote, will include a wish list of liberal priorities such as subsidizing child care, expanding Medicaid and enacting climate change measures.

Democrats also want to include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers who were brought illegally into the U.S. as children and grew up as Americans.

The bill is set to pass through a process known as budget reconciliation, which allows some spending and tax measures to avoid the Senate’s 60-vote threshold required for most legislation and pass with a 51-vote majority.

However, the political plight of vulnerable Democrats, including six who are trying to be reelected in districts that former President Donald Trump won last year, muddies the prospects of the bill’s survival.

Their loyalty to Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be tested in a key procedural vote in the House that she set for early next week.

Three Democrats targeted in American Action Network’s ad campaign — Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia, Henry Cuellar of Texas and Jared Golden of Maine — are trying to distance themselves from the measure. They joined six other more moderate House Democrats refusing to support the $3.5 trillion bill if the House does not immediately pass a separate $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package.

The Senate last week approved the $1.2 trillion package of road, bridge, airport and railway projects. Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, said she will hold votes to advance both measures next week to appease her party’s holdouts, though her offer did not immediately satisfy them.

Several of the 36 Democrats targeted by the ad campaign have announced their support for advancing the reconciliation bill.

They tout the new federal benefits such as paid family leave and a permanent extension of the refundable child tax credit as vital investments in American families.

One of the targeted Democrats, Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, called the bill a “historic investment” that will create good-paying jobs, boost the middle class and make the U.S. more competitive globally.

“The bottom line is that Democrats will deliver this direct investment in our nation’s greatest asset: the American people,” Mr. Cartwright said.

His northwestern Pennsylvania district, which includes Mr. Biden’s childhood hometown Scranton, was won by Mr. Trump in 2020 with 51.7% of the vote.

Buoying Democrats are polls showing that the reconciliation bill is popular, particularly among independents, women and minorities.

Nearly two-thirds of voters nationwide supported the $3.5 trillion spending bill, according to an Aug. 4 poll by Quinnipiac University.

A recent poll by the liberal Data for Progress also found that nearly two-thirds of voters support various aspects of the bill, including lowering the age to qualify for Medicare, making community colleges tuition-free and granting amnesty to some undocumented immigrants.

The poll also found wide support for ideas Democrats are considering to pay for their plan, including raising taxes on corporations and those making $400,000 or more.

Other surveys found that Americans also have concerns about the massive spending.

A poll last month by the centrist advocacy group No Labels found that while both packages have support, most Americans oppose the combined $4.7 trillion price tag.

Countering the conservative effort, liberal groups are spending at least $100 million during the recess to push the reconciliation bill, particularly in areas where Democrats face a tough reelection campaign. The League of Conservation Voters and Climate Power launched a $4 million ad campaign to give vulnerable Democrats cover to support the reconciliation bill.

An ad running in Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s Michigan district claims the bill would create clean energy jobs in the state’s “growing electric car industry.”

Building Back Together, a nonprofit run by former Biden campaign advisers, is running a $10 million ad campaign in battleground districts to boost the reconciliation bill.

Corrected a typo from an earlier version: Liberal groups are spending at least $100 million, not $10 million, on their ad campaign effort

• Kery Murakami can be reached at kmurakami@washingtontimes.com.

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