Democrats in tight House races in the Pacific Northwest are pledging to push back against the Biden administration, casting themselves as moderates willing to buck the president's agenda. But their records may undermine their efforts.
Oregon Democratic candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner promised in a campaign ad to "lower costs" and "stand up to her own party," which she says is "not getting the job done in Congress." Until recently, the congressional hopeful called herself a "proud progressive" and supported progressive legislation like the Green New Deal.
Incumbent Rep. Kim Schrier (D., Wash.) said in a campaign ad earlier this year that she was "taking on the Biden administration" over its proposed gas tax suspension. But Schrier has voted with Biden 100 percent of the time, passing trillions of dollars’ worth in federal stimulus that economists say has fueled inflation.
The ads come as vulnerable Democrats rush to court voters who are dissatisfied with Biden’s handling of the economy. Nearly three-quarters of Americans list inflation as their top concern in the midterm elections, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found this week.
In Schrier’s case, the pivot to pocketbook issues clashes with her legislative record. In February, Schrier introduced a bill to suspend the federal gas tax until 2023, months before the administration’s request for a mere three-month gas tax holiday. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D., Ore.) at the time said the gas tax suspension was "not going to give consumers significant relief" and would instead drain funding to infrastructure and related jobs.
Schrier admitted in a June 2021 telephone town hall that Democrats' spending led to inflation.
"We knew that there was a possibility that this could lead to inflation," Schrier said. "We all feel it a little bit, that everything feels a little more expensive. On top of that, gas is more expensive."
A spokeswoman for Schrier did not respond to a request for comment.
In April, McLeod-Skinner affirmed her support for the Green New Deal, which she called a "really good concept" that has been unfairly "demonized." The measure, pushed by self-described Democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), could cost taxpayers $94 trillion, a 2019 study found. McLeod-Skinner also backs Medicare for All, which Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) has said would cost taxpayers up to $40 trillion over 10 years.
Though she dodged the label during a recent debate, McLeod-Skinner has repeatedly referred to herself as progressive. The Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC and Progressive Democrats of America endorsed her campaign. When asked during a debate on Tuesday night whether she was a progressive, McLeod-Skinner answered twice that she was "an Oregonian."
The McLeod-Skinner campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Other Democratic incumbents have promised to push back on Biden’s agenda, with mixed results. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D.) told New Hampshire voters in September she would "stand up to the Biden administration" for failing to secure the southern border. But voters in the state who spoke with the Washington Free Beacon said they didn’t "buy" Hassan’s "bipartisan talk."
McLeod-Skinner was trailing her Republican opponent by 10 points in August but in the most recent poll is up by 3 points, according to FiveThirtyEight. Schrier is leading her opponent by 4 points, an August poll by RMG Research found.