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June 01, 2023

At the Races: Debt drama may not fuel campaign ads

Credit: Roll Call

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By Daniela Altimari and Mary Ellen McIntire

For all the drama generated by the debt ceiling debate, it’s hard to envision the outcome playing a featured role in political ads in House races next year. The vote Wednesday night brought together 314 members from across the ideological spectrum, ranging from Freedom Caucus stalwart Marjorie Taylor Greene to Squad co-founder Ilhan Omar.

Most of the “no” votes were from members in politically safe districts whose biggest threat is usually a primary challenge.

Of the 18 Republicans representing districts that Democrat Joe Biden won in 2020, the only one to vote “no” was beleaguered Rep. George Santos of New York.

The other 70 Republicans who defied party leadership and rejected the deal hail from districts that former President Donald Trump won by an average of 23.8 percentage points in 2020. Only two represent districts that Trump won by less than 5 points: Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey.

The Republican who won the closest race in 2022, Colorado’s Lauren Boebert, didn’t vote, although she spoke out against the bill at a House Freedom Caucus news conference on Wednesday. Also not voting were Indiana GOP Rep. Jim Banks, who is running for Senate; Minnesota Democrat Angie Craig, who injured her ankle and was told not to fly; and North Carolina Democrat Deborah K. Ross, who has COVID-19.

Almost all of the 46 Democrats who voted against the bill negotiated by Biden and backed by Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries hail from blue districts that Biden carried by at least 10 percentage points. The only Democrat in the DCCC’s “Frontline” program for vulnerable incumbents to vote against the package was Rep. Jahana Hayes, who represents a purplish slice of Connecticut that Biden won by 10.7 percentage points. Hayes won reelection in 2022 by less than a percentage point.

The debt ceiling vote could have political implications for lawmakers seeking higher office. In California, the three Democratic House members running for Senate were divided: Reps. Barbara Lee and Katie Porter voted “no,” while Rep. Adam B. Schiff supported the deal.

Other Democratic Senate hopefuls voting for the bill were Ruben Gallego of Arizona, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and David Trone of Maryland. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware, who is also considered a likely Senate candidate, also voted “aye.”

Republican Alex X. Mooney, who is seeking the Senate nomination in West Virginia, voted “no.”

The one member of Congress running for president, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, has said he will vote against the measure.

Payments due: The debt package did not touch Biden’s plan to forgive college loans, but it did mandate that payments that were paused during the pandemic resume, as they were scheduled to. Both chambers still passed a separate measure to stop the loan forgiveness, which Biden plans to veto.

Massie’s moment: Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie provided a crucial vote in the House Rules Committee to advance the debit limit bill to the House floor. It was a high-profile moment for the conservative, known for opposing major legislation, whom Trump once called a “third-rate grandstander.”

More about the bill: CQ Roll Call’s Lindsey McPherson offers a detailed look at who voted for and against the debt limit deal in the House. On the policy side, Benjamin J. Hulac analyzes Democratic angst about pipeline provisions, while Caroline Coudriet reports that hawks are worried about defense spending caps.

Vacancies: Utah GOP Rep. Chris Stewart has confirmed he plans to resign to deal with his wife’s illness. He tells CQ Roll Call’s Paul V. Fontelo that he expects to leave in September, which could mean his 2nd District seat won’t be filled until 2024. Casting his last votes Wednesday night, meanwhile, was Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island. His seat will be filled in November after a crowded Democratic primary in September, CQ Roll Call’s Justin Papp writes.

Endorsement watch: Rep. Rich McCormick, R-Ga., endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for president. Maryland Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, a former member of House Democrats’ leadership, endorsed Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks for the state’s open Senate seat.

No-hi-o: GOP Rep. Warren Davidson won’t seek to challenge Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown next year despite the encouragement of the Club for Growth. And J.R. Majewski, the controversial Republican who lost to Rep. Marcy Kaptur in Ohio’s 9th District, ended his latest bid for Congress this week, saying he was withdrawing from the race to spend time with his mother as she recovers from surgery.

Legal drama: The Justice Department is suing West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s coal empire — including his adult son, who runs the business — alleging the company violated federal laws and failed to pay more than $5 million in civil penalties. Republicans have criticized the DOJ for targeting Justice, who is running for Senate.
Senate representation: Democrats have a chance to elect a Black woman to the Senate in several states next year, with Delaware presenting their best opportunity, as Blunt Rochester is expected to run to replace retiring Sen. Thomas R. Carper. Politico writes that the paths for Black women running in Maryland, California and Michigan are less clear.

Rising star on the left: The New Republic profiles Rep. Greg Casar, a progressive Democrat from Texas. Casar said he has no plans to seek statewide office, which Democrats in the Lone Star State haven’t captured since the early years of the Clinton presidency. But, he added, “I do have plans to be a part of doing whatever it takes to take the state back.”

Democratic divisions: The Democratic Party in North Carolina is embroiled in a platform fight over Israel. The party is considering a series of resolutions focused on Middle East policy, according to Jewish Insider, which reviewed a draft of the platform. Rep. Kathy Manning, a pro-Israel Democrat, has expressed concerns about the proposed resolutions, which she called “one-sided, inaccurate and divisive.”

The California effect: The New York Times Magazine examined the outsize influence the Golden State has long exerted on public policy nationwide. From environmental rules to workers’ rights, liberal legislation approved in Sacramento has spread far beyond California’s borders. Now red states are adopting a similar approach, crafting conservative policies that have an impact on other states.

The count: 48%
That’s the segment of registered voters in Texas in a recent poll who didn’t know enough about Rep. Colin Allred to have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him, potentially giving the Democrat room to grow as he runs for Senate. A head-to-head matchup found Allred trailing GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, 42 percent to 37 percent. But only 4 percent had no opinion of Cruz, while 41 percent had a favorable impression of him and 49 percent had an unfavorable impression — compared with Allred’s 21/19 favorable/percent unfavorable ratio. Meanwhile, the state’s other Republican senator, John Cornyn, was at an almost even 31 percent favorable/32 percent unfavorable. The poll of 1,413 registered voters was taken May 10-21 by the University of Texas-Tyler and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 points.

Investment advisers like to warn that past performance is no indication of future results. In the case of four states that could help decide the House majority in 2024, party operatives are saying the same thing, Nathan L. Gonzales writes.

Key race: New Jersey 7
New Jersey Rep. Thomas H. Kean Jr. drew his first Democratic opponent this week in Sue Altman, a progressive activist who would test whether a Democrat from the left wing of the party can win a swing district in a blue state.

Altman’s announcement comes after former Rep. Tom Malinowski, who represented the 7th District for four years, said he wouldn’t run again. Malinowski lost to Kean last year by 3 points.

Republicans are already labeling Altman as too far to the left for the district, which Biden would have won by 3.8 points in 2020 and became more Republican-leaning during the most recent round of redistricting.

“We look forward to watching extremist Sue Altman — the face of the progressive left in New Jersey — sell her tax-hiking, defunding-the-police agenda to the voters of NJ-07,” Courtney Parella, communications director for the Congressional Leadership Fund, said in a statement.

Democrats, too, are targeting the district. The DCCC put up a billboard ad last week criticizing Kean for being silent when Trump called on Republicans to defund law enforcement agencies. Inside Elections rates the race as a Toss-up.

Kean, a former state lawmaker and son of a popular former governor, has sought to position himself as a centrist, joining the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus earlier this year. He had $736,000 on hand as of the end of April, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Any successful candidate will need to be a strong fundraiser to compete in the New York City media market.

Coming up
Tuesday is primary day in New Jersey, with both chambers of the Legislature up this year. But, as WNYC reports, the power of county party organizations means there are few real contests even though there are more open seats than at any time in the past 12 years.

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