Democrats suddenly feel they have a robust agenda to push ahead toward the midterms in the fall.
The surprise climate, health and tax deal that Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., struck with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., this week has given Democrats some ammunition to make what might be their biggest combat political weakness in this election year: rising prices.
“If you want to look at the big MO — the momentum — it’s here with us now and we needed that,” Rep. Cheri Bustos, head of the House Democrats’ campaign arm last cycle, told NBC News. “We needed a boost and just mentally we need to start feeling like we’re getting some wins. I think we were in the dumps.”
No one is claiming that Manchin’s Inflation Reduction Act is the panacea to solve all of the Democrats’ election-year problems. Biden’s poll numbers are abysmal and Democrats have a razor-thin majority in the 50-50 Senate. House Democrats only have a five-seat majority, and history shows that the party occupying the White House typically loses dozens of seats in a president’s first half. Campaign forecasters still believe Republicans will be heavily favored to turn the house.
But Democrats believe some incumbents with a stronger record will be able to hold on and prevent Republicans from making 2022 a big election year.
The package will “change people’s lives. There are a lot of really important pieces, elements of this legislation that will matter to the people I represent,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., one of the most vulnerable Democrats seeking re-election this year .
Spanberger pointed out that the bill calls for climate investments in environmental protection and agricultural practices that will benefit producers in their rural suburban district between Washington and Richmond.
“I don’t see a world where I’m going to say no to those things,” she said.
In addition to $369 billion in energy and climate finance, the Manchin-Schumer deal includes provisions aimed at easing the strain on the purse.
It would empower Medicare to negotiate the price of certain drugs with the pharmaceutical industry, an idea supported by 83% of Americans opinion poll last fall by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation. It would also limit annual out-of-pocket expenses for seniors on Medicare to $2,000.
“We are finally on the brink of doing this. That will drastically reduce costs for the average American who has to pay exorbitant prices for prescription drugs,” Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., a top GOP destination in a swing district in Orange County, told NBC News.
And the deal would extend funding for the Affordable Care Act by three years and prevent premium increases this fall for millions of Americans, which many Democrats feared.
“Having this opportunity to have this three-year extension of the lower ACA subsidy is also going to make a huge difference in people’s lives,” Levin said.
Democratic strategists have argued that tackling prescription drug costs would be a big boost for the party if they could pass the law, saying it would contrast with the GOP among voters, who are currently aware of both parties’ inaction are disappointed on this issue.
“Reducing prescription drug prices remains Democrats’ most credible response to inflation. This is an extremely popular policy,” said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. “This is a really strong move and a really strong theme.”
Lake said many voters “believe politicians from both parties have been talking about this for decades” and that it isn’t being done because they believe “both parties are bought by special interests.”
She added: “This government has done a lot but people don’t know it. And they think it’s old or gone. So this is a recent achievement in very important areas.”
Republicans, however, are enjoying the fight over what they call a massive tax and spending package. At a time of record inflation, they argue that more government spending and corporate tax hikes will only push the country into recession.
“I’ll run on it. I’m going to hit the other side,” said Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., whose district went for Joe Biden in 2020. “Higher taxes are not a strong platform.”
“Our companies invest because of the [Trump] tax reform,” he said. “Doing this minimum tax will actually undermine investment in our own country, which will take away construction jobs. That’s bad economics.”
The package would create new revenue through a minimum 15% tax for companies, but would not include any new taxes for individuals.
Schumer has told ordinary members he wants the entire package handed over by next week. As Democrats pick up the bill through the Senate reconciliation process, they need all 50 of their members plus Vice President Kamala Harris to pass it. If that happens, the House of Representatives would then come back from its summer recess and pick it up the week of August 8, giving Democrats about three months to campaign for it.
“I think it’s going to be important for our constituents to understand that we’re fighting to reduce their costs — that’s what this is about — and make a big investment in climate change,” said veteran Democratic Senator Patty Murray, who is usually reliable blue represents Washington state, however, is being targeted by Republicans trying to expand the Senate map this cycle.
Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., dismissed questions about whether the legislation would affect his 2022 prospects, but said the reconciliation package was “important to the people of Arizona.”
“As I’ve traveled across the state and spoken to seniors, the prohibitive costs of some prescription drugs kept coming up,” Kelly, a top GOP target, said in an interview. “And I have seniors who have to decide if they can buy groceries or get their prescription filled – or they halve pills or they can’t pay their electric bills. So this is significant.”
It’s not just the comprehensive reconciliation package that Democrats feel good about. Congress this week passed a bipartisan package to boost US computer chip manufacturing to bolster national security and compete with China. Earlier in the summer, lawmakers also passed a historic package to tackle gun violence following a spate of mass shootings across the country.
And Democrats also said they are finally learning what projects in their home states will be funded from the $550 billion infrastructure package signed last year. That means press conferences and tape cuttings.
In addition to these legislative victories, Democrats say they are also watching closely yawning gap between the two parties when it comes to small donations. Small-dollar fundraising for the GOP has stalled this summer, while similar donations to the Democrats continue to surge, perhaps due to things like the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade and the ongoing Jan. 6 investigation.
“We’re still struggling with the same headwinds that we’ve had, but it’s good to have more success to look back on,” said Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., a GOP target responsible for the electrics of the Deals advertises vehicle and solar systems. “The infrastructure bill is big, though [the climate and energy bill] is a really important part of our agenda.
“We have to land the plane,” he added. “To the solar industry – these are jobs for my people.”
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/manchins-surprise-democrats-finally-feel-robust-agenda-run-rcna40648 With Manchin’s surprise, Democrats finally feel they have a robust agenda to rely on