Vulnerable Democrats Bet Stigma on Targets has Dissipated | Nation / World
WASHINGTON – Dozens of at-risk House Democrats are betting that securing money for their voters through allocations will be somewhere between a net positive for their re-election campaigns and a neutral factor that won’t deter undecided voters.
This is somewhat of a departure from the Frontline Democrats program of the last Congress, which feared Republicans would use the rebranded “community project funding” as a political weapon against them.
But House Democrats ultimately failed to restore goals at the 116th Congress, and several of those members at risk lost their seats in 2020 anyway amid unexpected support for GOP candidates that has let Democrats barely control the chamber.
Now, swing district Democrats almost all agree, with 31 of 32 Democrats on the frontline list asking for local funds from the Appropriations Committee.
Second-term Texas Rep Colin Allred, who defeated longtime GOP Rep Pete Sessions in 2018 and was re-elected last year by a 6-point margin with nearly 52 percent of the vote, expected not to have attributions used against him in the midterm.
“I understand that almost everything in Washington is political, but the process that I’ve been through and also, I think, the process of trying to make big investments in your community should be non-political,” Allred said.
The former Tennessee Titans linebacker, who went on to work as a civil rights attorney at President Barack Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development, formed a committee to sort out all the projects in his suburb of Dallas.
The 11-member bipartisan group was designed to “get out of politics,” Allred said, choosing projects that would meet local needs, demonstrate job creation, or mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Allred’s 10 credit requests were among the most expensive in the House, at just over $ 241 million. Much of that would go to two major Dallas Fort Worth International Airport projects that Allred is jointly supporting with another region lawmaker, Republican Beth Van Duyne.
Allred doesn’t think the price tag will cause any alarm among voters or become a political responsibility. “I think it will be very difficult to say that investing in DFW Airport in Dallas, Texas is a bad idea,” he said, highlighting the airport’s role in the local economy. .
According to the Texas Comptroller’s Office, about 7% of the state’s total international trade passes through DFW, which contributes roughly $ 25 billion to the state’s economy globally and supports nearly 164,000 jobs. It was the third-busiest airport in the world for the past two years in terms of take-offs and landings, according to Airports Council International, and ranked 10th pre-pandemic for passengers on and off. planes before jumping to fourth place last year.
Separately, Allred has requested $ 19.7 million in project funding for a separate surface transportation reauthorization bill that the House of Transportation and Infrastructure plans to accept.
Rep. Matt Cartwright doesn’t expect voters in his eastern Pennsylvania district to be swayed in any way by the fact that he’s asked for $ 27.6 million for 10 credit projects, in which he will have his say as chairman of the Commerce-Justice committee. Scientific subcommittee.
“I went through two energetic elections, 2018 and 2020, and the accusations made by my opponents had so little basis in fact that it made me think that something real like funding community projects would not interest them,” he said. said Cartwright.
Cartwright’s project requests include $ 2.1 million for the Wilkes-Barre Police Department to purchase software capable of identifying gunfire and $ 2 million for Lackawanna County law enforcement to step up efforts to combat drugs, gangs and gun violence. Both are within the purview of its subcommittee.
Other examples include $ 1.8 million for mental health and addiction services at the YMCA Greater Scranton, and $ 5.5 million for the construction of a new police and fire facility in Moosic, in Pennsylvania.
In addition, Cartwright submitted approximately $ 20 million in surface transportation bill requests.
The fifth-term congressman won last year by around 3.5 points with nearly 52% of the vote, although like Allred’s, his district will likely be different after the redistribution.
Cartwright and Allred both often used the term “community project funding” to refer to the new process established by House and Senate leaders. It’s a term meant to give brands more legitimacy than before, when several high-profile lobbying scandals resulted in a decadalong ban on special campaign items.
House Supply Chairperson Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., And Senate Supply Chairperson Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., Have imposed new transparency and guardrail requirements on the process when they chose to end the ban this year: the total amount of allotments will be capped at 1% of discretionary funding, the House and Senate spending committees have limited the type of accounts eligible for directed funding, For-profit entities are not eligible and members must post their applications online.
The House capped member requests at 10 each, although no similar restriction exists in the Senate.
However, not all Democrats at risk are participating.
California Representative Katie Porter has voiced her opposition to the allocations, and she is the only House Democrat not to seek community project funding in a separate appropriation bill or surface transportation measure.
Porter has taken a stand against his party leaders on the issue, saying in a Wall Street Journal editorial that unelected executive officials should be tasked with sharing federal dollars that Congress appropriates, not lawmakers. .
“Normally, Congress determines funding levels for major priorities, like the Highway Trust Fund. The agency that administers this funding pool then determines how exactly to allocate it. Projects are given priority according to the determination of needs by the supervising agency, ”she wrote. “The distribution of responsibilities between the legislative and executive powers maintains a certain neutrality in federal spending. But the assignment deviates from this process. “
Supporters of Armark, including House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, have argued that members of Congress know their districts better than these officials and are better able to champion needed projects. They also said it was the constitutional responsibility of Congress to determine where federal departments and agencies spend the money that lawmakers have appropriated.
It’s not just the at-risk Democrats lining up for a slice of the pie – 16 of the 21 swing district Republicans that the Democratic Congressional campaign committee identified as being at stake have asked the spending panel to support projects in their districts. The list also includes party leaders such as House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York.
Earmark requests by Republicans, who make up about a third of participating House lawmakers but 45% of the funding requested, could become an issue during GOP primary campaigns. Several longtime Republicans have opposed a return to assignments.
Cam Savage, founder and director of Limestone Strategies which works with GOP candidates, said the midterm elections “have a particular tendency to swing on national news, big big issues and not micro trends.” But he did not rule out that distinctive brands play a role in certain races.
“It’s not entirely out of the question for people to run ads about this stuff, depending on the project, depending on the importance of the project to the voters in their constituency,” he said. declared. “The problem with a lot of these things is that they tend to be pretty niche.”
Savage said one of the main themes for incumbents in tough re-election contests is showing how they’ve done for their districts, and securing special funding might be one way to do that. But that probably won’t be enough to tip undecided voters, he said.
“Is it possible that one of these things that you are working on … is affecting the race of one or two members?” Of course, I think it is possible. Is it likely that this will affect a lot of them? History would tell us that’s not really how it works, ”Savage said.
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