House Democrats overcome last-minute right-wing campaign, pass Build Back Better bill

Despite a flood of negative campaign ads and a late-night Kevin McCarthy stunt, Democrats pass Biden's big agenda

By Jon Skolnik

Published November 19, 2021 9:45AM (EST)

Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. and Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va. (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. and Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va. (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

After a late-night marathon stunt from the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, and a flood of last-minute money from multiple conservative groups targeted at moderates, House Democrats passed President Joe Biden's signature legislation. 

The hard-fought legislation was finally passed on Friday in a near-unanimous party-line vote. Not one Republican voted for the package. Maine's Jared Golden, who cited tax breaks for the wealthy as the source for his opposition, was the only Democrat to vote against the package. Vulnerable Democrats like Golden faced ad campaigns in their districts in recent weeks funded by right-wing opponents to President Biden's landmark domestic spending bill. 

"Take a stand against the out-of-control spending and new taxes," one ad from American Action Network (AAN), a conservative issue advocacy group, demanded. The group rolled out a $400,000 ad campaign this week targeting two potentially vulnerable House Democrats in Virginia, according to Fox News. In the ad, Reps. Elaine Luria, D-Va., and Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., were encouraged to formally oppose Biden's "human infrastructure package" – a sweeping social spending measure designed to expand the child tax credit, tackle climate change, increase paid time off, and more.

"Virginia rejects the radical Biden-Pelosi agenda. But liberals like Elaine Luria still aren't listening," the ad says. "Luria is voting with Nancy Pelosi. Trillions on a wish list for the radical left. Tell Elaine Luria to get the message and reject the Pelosi spending plan." 

The spot uses similar language to address Spanberger and was broadcasted in both lawmakers' districts. 

The campaign comes weeks after the gubernatorial win of pro-Trump candidate Glenn Youngkin in Virginia – a state that Biden carried by ten points a year ago during the presidential election. According to Axios, every county in Virginia swung right in the state's most recent gubernatorial election. 

Last week, a similar ad blitz was launched by the Coalition to Protect American Workers, a far-right anti-tax organization founded by former Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff. 


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The campaign also takes aim at Biden's landmark spending package, targeting five House moderates, which include Reps. Ed Case, D-Hawaii, Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Jared Golden, D-Maine, and Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. 

"If congressional Democrats don't stop Biden and Pelosi's plan, a lot of Americans won't be able to pay their heating bills this winter," the ad warns, specifically citing concerns around inflation. The spot, The Hill noted, was unveiled just one day after a Department of Labor revealed that annual inflation had hit a thirty-year record high in October. 

Polls have widely indicated that Biden's approval rating has fallen as a result of rising consumer prices. However, the White House has argued that his human infrastructure bill will combat inflation, largely because the measure will be paid for by closing the "tax gap."

RELATED: MTG's threats worked: House Republicans who voted for infrastructure bill flooded with angry calls

The spot came just a week after a similar advertising effort was helmed by the Club for Growth, a conservative 501(c)(4) that advocates for cutting taxes, free trade, deregulation, and entitlement reform.

"Prices of gas, groceries, cars, housing, going through the roof after Biden blew through trillions," the group's ad states. "Now he wants to add more taxes, drive prices even higher and spend even more."

The blitz, first reported by Politico, targets Murphy, Case, Gottheimer, and Spanberg, along with Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Ga., Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, Jared Golden, D-Maine, Chris Pappas, D-N.H., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.

On Monday, President Biden signed his $1 trillion infrastructure bill, seen by many Democrats as just one of two components of the White House's infrastructure agenda. The bill – significantly watered down by Republicans and moderate Democrats – sets out to put billions in repairing the nation's roads, bridges, railways, and expanding broadband. 

RELATED: House passes $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill — a major victory for Biden's agend


Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

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Aggregate Build Back Better House Democrats Joe Biden Moderate Democrats