Out With A Whimper: House Democrat Plot To Kill Debt Ceiling Measure Flops

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) / Getty Images
May 3, 2023

A much-hyped House Democratic offensive against House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's (R., Calif.) debt ceiling measure turned out to be a major dud.

With great fanfare last Monday, Politico exclusively reported that House Majority Forward would plaster the airwaves in New York districts held by Republicans with an attack ad tying McCarthy and "MAGA Republicans" to the threat of default. The five-figure ad buy from the dark money arm of House Democrats' super PAC was the group's opening salvo against McCarthy's proposal, and Politico suggested the move could mark a turning point in Democratic efforts to flip the six competitive districts blue in the 2024 election.

But rather than making House Republicans shake in their boots, the vaunted ad campaign turned out to be a flop. It ran just twice on daytime MSNBC programs last Wednesday before the House voted to approve McCarthy's plan, according to AdImpact metrics reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon. The ad, which falsely claimed McCarthy's proposal would cut education, air, and water protections and cancer research by 22 percent, ran once on Ana Cabrera's show and once more on Andrea Mitchell's program.

Total spending for the House Majority Forward ad clocked in at just $7,486, AdImpact metrics show.

But House Majority Forward communications director C.J. Warnke said the ad campaign was a major victory in Democratic efforts to hold "MAGA Republicans" accountable. Warnke did not dispute the AdImpact data when contacted Tuesday afternoon.

"Can confirm that the House Majority Forward ad did indeed run in all six of those districts last Wednesday in advance of the vote," Warnke told the Free Beacon. "Appreciate you reaching out as we want to make sure that the MAGA Republicans covered in this buy are held accountable!!!"

The ad repeated the White House's false claims that House Republicans seek to cut specific government programs by 22 percent. There is nothing in McCarthy's debt ceiling measure that singles out cuts to education, cancer research, or air and water protections. Rather, it would rewind non-defense discretionary spending to 2022 levels and limit future expenditure growth by 1 percent annually for the next 10 years in return for raising the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion.

"Democrats could not dignify their false attacks with enough money to fuel a used car salesman's local ad campaign. Where is their disinformation czar?" said National Republican Congressional Committee press secretary Will Reinert.

McCarthy's measure passed the House last Wednesday on a narrow 217-215 vote, with four Republicans voting against the bill. The federal government is set to default on its debt sometime in June if no action is taken, but President Joe Biden has insisted that he will not negotiate over a debt ceiling increase. Biden on Monday caved to Republican demands to initiate talks over a debt ceiling increase, however, when he set up a May 9 White House meeting with the top four congressional leaders.