House members are expected to return to Capitol Hill on Friday to vote on historic legislation affecting the environment, healthcare, and taxes. But even before it passes, the bill is becoming an integral part of the Democrats’ messaging strategy heading into the midterms.
Preemptively looking to leverage their success into midterm gains, Democrats are hoping to capitalize on the Senate’s approval of the Inflation Reduction Act over the weekend, a feat that would have seemed miraculous just weeks ago when stalled negotiations made the spending package’s passage seem untenable.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi assured her Democratic colleagues in a letter that the “life-changing legislation” would pass the more cooperative House on Friday. The bill, the cornerstone of Vice President Joe Biden’s economic agenda, has received unanimous support in both houses of Congress and is now on its way to the desk of the president.
The White House will almost certainly not waste any time spreading its latest message, which is that Democrats have delivered on “what was best for the American people” while congressional Republicans sided with special interests and pushed “an extreme MAGA agenda that costs families” at every turn.
One high-ranking bureaucrat put it this way: “We think there’s a pretty strong case here that the American people have won and special interests have taken a backseat.” And that’s a huge shift.
This shift in messaging follows a string of legislative victories for Biden and congressional Democrats over the past few weeks, including a bill to help veterans who have been exposed to toxic burn pits and a bill to regulate the semiconductor industry. And it follows upbeat reports on the economy and inflation, as well as action by the administration against Republican-led efforts to further restrict access to abortion. There are indications that Democratic voters are reacting to the recent victories. This week’s Reuters/Ipsos poll showed the president’s approval rating climbing, almost entirely due to support from within his own party. The president’s approval rating among Democrats is at 78%, up 9 points from a month ago when it was at 69%.
The Inflation Reduction Act is central to the new approach, capping off a productive summer with a rare success for a dysfunctional Congress.
The $740 billion measure aims to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030 and includes provisions to address prescription drug prices, energy costs, and corporate taxes. It is expected to raise enough money to pay for itself. Yet, it is much more limited than Biden’s comparable but even more ambitious Build Back Better Act. Child care, universal preschool, and paid family leave were all part of that massive plan.
A White House memo outlining the president’s planned messaging strategy for the coming weeks implied that Democrats had defeated Big Pharma, which had previously blocked action to reduce prescription drug prices, and large corporations that had avoided paying their fair share of taxes. Republicans in Congress are portrayed as “siding with special interests and the super-wealthy” for their efforts over the weekend to halt the bill’s passage.
Republicans in the Senate tried to stop the bill from passing on the grounds that it would worsen the economy by increasing prices and tax revenue. They tried to get their Democratic colleagues to vote in a way that would be difficult for them by introducing a large number of amendments. However, Democrats were able to maintain their unity and save the bill.
In spite of this, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the Republicans’ proposed out-of-pocket spending cap on insulin was outside the scope of the reconciliation procedure, which allowed a simple majority vote to end debate rather than the usual 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.
In a memo released by the White House, the decision was described as a Republican attempt to “protect Big Pharma,” along with other positions held by the party, such as its opposition to “common-sense” gun safety measures and its desire to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care, as examples of a “extremist agenda” that “doesn’t serve working families.”
Republicans, meanwhile, have tried to exploit inflation by arguing that Democrats have “no plan” to aid the public.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California blamed President Joe Biden and the House Democrats for inflation hitting a 40-year high in a rare press conference at the end of last month. They have pushed inflexible policies that have led to higher energy costs and lower real wages.
In an apparent effort to change the inflation narrative that has for months weighed most heavily on Americans and been touted most prominently by Republicans as both parties try to gain the support of working-class voters in the upcoming midterms, Vice President Biden and his team intend to travel across the country following the bill signing to tout the new message, with the Inflation Reduction Act at the helm.
The memo states, “This is the choice before the American people.” You can count on Vice President Biden and the Democrats in Congress to stand up to powerful interests and protect your family. Or the extreme MAGA agenda that serves only the richest, the corporations, and the Republicans in Congress.
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