Washington’s largest business lobby got the bipartisan infrastructure bill it wanted. Now it’s going in for the kill on the piece of President Joe Biden’s agenda that it doesn’t want — Democrats’ $1.7 trillion reconciliation bill.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is readying a multi-pronged ad blitz aimed at keeping the pressure on two of the bill’s key holdouts in the Senate, Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
In West Virginia, the Chamber is going up with a TV ad in which residents of the state, who were vetted by the group, thank Manchin for “fighting for my business,” as one woman puts it, and “standing up for my family,” as another says.
“Keep fighting for us, senator,” another person in the spot says. “We can’t afford higher taxes and more inflation.”
Manchin has re-emerged of late as the primary roadblock to the bill, which would raise taxes on corporations, fund climate initiatives and reform prescription drug pricing — all provisions that the Chamber doesn’t like. He’s continued to negotiate with the White House over the legislation, pushing for more budget clarity on it as inflation reaches a four-decade high. POLITICO reported Wednesday that patience in the West Wing is wearing thin over the slogging pace of talks with Manchin, which are going “very poorly” with little progress.
In addition to the TV ad, the Chamber is putting up digital billboards in cities throughout West Virginia and taking out full-page ads in the Sunday editions of newspapers around the state this weekend. The U.S Chamber and its West Virginia counterpart also hosted a tele-town hall Wednesday, which more than 6,000 constituents tuned in to, the group said. Earlier this month, the Chamber launched a statewide radio campaign thanking Manchin “for protecting West Virginians from rising prices and protecting local jobs.”
“The business community continues to stand with Senator Manchin as he fights for job creators and the people of West Virginia,” Suzanne Clark, the U.S. Chamber’s president and chief executive, said in a statement. “We commend Senator Manchin for his tireless commitment to putting West Virginians first, despite enormous pressures from those who want to pass an ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ spending bill that will only add to inflation over the next year.”
The Chamber’s opposition to the reconciliation bill is nearly as fierce as its push, just months ago, for Congress to pass a $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill that Manchin and Sinema helped negotiate.
The trade group has spent more than $46 million lobbying the federal government through the first nine months of this year, public disclosures show, and dropped money on ads supporting the infrastructure bill, which President Joe Biden signed into law last month, marking the realization of a years-long push by the organization for massive new federal infrastructure investments.
The Chamber’s embrace of the infrastructure bill and rejection of the reconciliation bill, which Democrats intended to pursue in tandem in order to maintain leverage on moderates like Manchin and Sinema, drew public attacks from Republicans, the business lobby’s traditional allies on the Hill. GOP lawmakers ridiculed the group for their efforts to toe the line between both bills — though the Chamber’s gamble appears to be paying off thus far as the reconciliation package continues to face delays.
In addition to the ad campaign in West Virginia, the Chamber is launching an ad campaign in Nevada as well, targeting Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who is likely to face a close reelection fight next fall. The group is also going up with TV, print and radio ads in Arizona to target Sinema and fellow Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, the latter of whom is facing a tight reelection battle next year.
“In a fair fight, American workers can out-compete anyone. But Democrats in Congress are proposing massive tax increases on businesses that sell and operate overseas, forcing Americans to compete with one arm tied behind our backs,” a narrator says in the group’s TV spot, referencing tax provisions in the reconciliation bill. The ad urges the senators to “protect American workers and reject these reckless tax increases.”
The Chamber is also launching a radio spot calling Sinema “someone who will stand up for us like when it comes to the reconciliation bill that would add to inflation,” while calling Democrats’ social spending and climate legislation, “riddled with budget gimmicks to hide the true cost.” That’s in addition to billboards and full page ads in the Sunday paper, as well as a Tuesday tele-town hall hosted by the U.S. Chamber and its Arizona affiliate that the group said drew more than 5,000 attendees.