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Debt standoff is fodder for ads targeting vulnerable House members

Campaign comes before Biden, McCarthy meet at White House

Before Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., goes to the White House for debt talks, the House GOP campaign arm released new ads hitting vulnerable Democrats over spending.
Before Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., goes to the White House for debt talks, the House GOP campaign arm released new ads hitting vulnerable Democrats over spending. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The blame game for the debt limit standoff is driving an escalating ad war targeting vulnerable House members.

Groups tied to both parties announced new efforts Tuesday, ahead of a meeting between President Joe Biden, Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other congressional leaders at the White House.

A non-profit group affiliated with House Democrats launched a $1 million digital, research and messaging campaign that admonishes Republicans for pressing for sharp cuts to government programs and risking default.

“Americans don’t negotiate with hostage takers, and they must make their voices loud and clear to Speaker McCarthy — defaulting on America is not an option,” Abby Curran Horrell, executive director of House Majority Forward, said in a statement. Cuts sought in a bill including a debt limit increase the House passed would “slash veterans benefits, defund law enforcement, drive costs up, and cut Medicaid for 21 million Americans,” she said.

Also on Tuesday, House Republicans’ campaign arm launched a digital ad campaign that says Democrats’ “reckless spending” has brought the country to the brink of default. The ads from the National Republican Congressional Committee target 35 vulnerable Democratic incumbents. 

“Extreme House Democrats demand to keep spending our money like drunken sailors or they’ll tank the economy and allow America to default,” NRCC Chairman Richard Hudson of North Carolina said in a statement. “Every House Democrat said ‘no’ to addressing the spending crisis they created — if they won’t pay the tab they racked up, then they’ll pay at the ballot box.”

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week found the public is evenly split over who is responsible if the debt ceiling is not raised and the government goes into default.

Among the targets of the new GOP ads are several of the most vulnerable House Democrats, including freshmen Reps. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington, Gabe Vasquez of New Mexico and Yadira Caraveo of Colorado. 

The NRCC ad says Democrats “maxed out our nation’s credit card with reckless spending, jacking up inflation to historic highs” and “refuse to solve the spending crisis they created.” An NRCC spokesman said the digital campaign would cost the committee “five figures” but did not disclose the exact cost.

The GOP is borrowing a page from its 2022 playbook, when Republicans hammered Democrats on inflation. The strategy proved successful in New York, among other places.

Democrats, meanwhile, are focused on districts represented by the GOP but won by Biden in 2022, including several in New York and California. On Wednesday, Biden plans to visit the district of a New York Republican who flipped a Democratic seat in the Hudson Valley.

House Majority Forward also unveiled a round of ads last month in competitive New York districts attacking  Republicans for risking default and “sinking us into recession.”

Democrats have said Republicans should pass a “clean” increase or suspension of the debt ceiling, since it would allow the government to spend money that has already been appropriated. They note Republicans approved several suspensions when Republican Donald Trump was president and they controlled both chambers.

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