Business interests use ads and other efforts to lure Democrats to change or kill a $ 3.5 trillion social policy bill.
Published October 4, 2021 Updated October 6, 2021
WASHINGTON – As the centrist Democrats in Congress have worked to block or repeal essential provisions of President Biden’s $ 3.5 trillion social security network and climate plan, a number of online ads have appeared in their states and neighborhoods to applaud them.
One calls Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who has risen to lead the measure, an “independent voice” and a “bilateral leader.” Another says Oregon spokesman Kurt Schrader wants Biden-Schrader on the agenda, although he is clearly opposed to key elements of the presidential package. The third praises Kathleen Rice, a representative of New York, for “fighting for our health and our economy,” even if she defeats Mr Biden’s plan.
There is one thing that the ads do not say so prominently: they are paid for by groups funded by the pharmaceutical industry and commercial interests, which are lobbying hard to kill or reshape important parts of the presidential plan.
As Democrats struggle to keep Mr Biden’s proposal in Congress in the midst of internal disagreements in time, a powerful campaign will come together at every step. Business groups are working hard to combat its large aggregates, such as raising taxes on the wealthy and companies; Extension of Medicare to dental, hearing and vision services; and proposed a reduction in taxes and charges on CO2 emissions.
The effort develops less conspicuously than previous lobbying; Pandemic restrictions have limited large gatherings of lobbyists at the Capitol, so the corridor outside the Senate Finance Committee’s office, long known as ‘Gucci Gulch’, is no longer flooded with shiny Italian shoes. But the campaign is as intense as ever, through individual meetings, Zoom calls, fundraising and airing.
According to OpenSecrets, a non-profit organization that monitors money in politics, more than 4,000 lobbyists are involved in budgeting and spending. Ten major industries have spent nearly $ 700 million on lobbying this year, the group said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is lobbying for the bill to kill the bill, has already spent about $ 30 million on lobbyists this year. The pharmaceutical industry, which is trying to win a proposal to reduce the cost of medicines, has spent more than $ 15 million.
“Every group arrives and they want a meeting,” says Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, one of the main masters who used the far-reaching draft budget to raise prosperous taxes. “If they don’t make a commitment at the first meeting, they want a second meeting – and then a third and then a fourth. They pay a lot of attention.”
Influence campaigns are cutting back in both directions. Several political action committees and other political groups are free to spend on further drafting and enforcing the draft.
The backing group Building Back Together is part of a coalition that has pledged $ 150 million in advertising to support Biden’s plan. According to the analyst company AdImpact, the League of Nature Conservation has spent almost 6.7 million dollars on advertising this month. He urges Congress to halve carbon pollution by 2030 – part of the package – and threatened not to withhold campaign donations from Democrats who do not support it.
Perhaps no aspect of packaging has led to more lobbying than the proposal to reduce the cost of prescription medicines by allowing Medicar to negotiate these costs. The pharmaceutical lobby spends more than a million dollars on TV commercials to combat it. And now there are nearly 1,500 registered pharmacy or health care lobbyists working as lawmakers in Congress, nearly three per member, according to OpenSecrets.
Ken Frazier, CEO of Merck, which helps finance advertising, recently admitted to journalists that companies are fighting the proposal so hard because they believe it will reduce their revenues. However, he also portrayed lobbying as altruistic, arguing that a reduction in profits would lead to less money for research and development of new diseases and treatments.
“We’ve looked at what it would be,” Mr Frazier said. “We have modeled it and we can fund research and development; D Merckis is almost halved. “
PhRMA, a trade group representing pharmaceutical companies, launched its first advertising package last month. In it, a woman named Sue looks at the camera, her voice melancholy, and says the Democrats’ plan would “make it harder for Medicare people to get the drugs they need.” Advertising is often shown during policy news, which is monitored by policy makers.
The community sent another ad accusing politicians of deciding “what medications you can and can’t take, no matter what your doctor prescribes.” This was followed by a print advertising campaign and then an open letter from 30 pharmaceutical companies.
At the same time, a group called Center Forward is serving targeted digital ads in support of centrist Democrats working to reduce the bill. According to the tax register, the group receives nearly $ 1.5 million a year from PhRMA.
“Thank you to Kyrsten Sinema and tell him to continue the fight as an independent voice in Arizona,” she said in an ad as Ms. Sinema participated in discussions with the White House about removing items from the president’s package.
Another, who was a spokesman for Scott Peters in the California constituency, said: “We can always count on Scott Peters to deliver.”
Pharmaceutical companies have donated to members of Congress, but no more than Mr. Peters, who has received more than $ 88,000 this year alone. He was one of three Democrats in the Committee on Energy and Trade who opposed Mr Biden’s plan to reduce the cost of prescription medicines.
PhRMA emphasizes that its campaign of influence is not trying to kill Mr Biden’s multi-billion dollar bill – they are proposing an alternative plan that would be cheaper for the industry – but the collapse of the package is the goal of another group.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, along with its chief executive Suzanne Clark, has condemned the law, saying it “dramatically expands the size and scope of government through record inflation costs and imposes huge tax increases that will halt America’s fragile economic recovery.”
“The House will do its utmost to ensure that this does not become a law on tax increases and job-killing reconciliation,” Ms Clark promised.
No Labels, a corporate-funded organization with close ties to centrist legislators, including Senator Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat, is working to pass Mr Biden’s trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, but is campaigning to kill a broader social policy plan.
When Mr Manchin called for Mr Biden’s $ 3.5 trillion social policy plan to be suspended, No Labels quickly put up an advertisement confirming his position as ‘common sense’.
White House Deputy Secretary Andrew Bates said Biden’s plan would improve the lives of middle-class Americans and strengthen US competitiveness in the global economy.
“For too long, wealthier taxpayers and large corporations – those who can afford lobbyists – have been able to write special rules for themselves, while everyone else, despite more effort than ever before, is staying further and further away,” he added. said.
Lobbying has angered liberals who blame corporate influence campaigns for their party’s highest priorities.
“We see it on television every day,” said Pramila Jayapal, a Washington spokesman for Congressional Progressive Caucus. “It’s really sad because it’s the president’s agenda.”
No Labels did not respond to the request for comment.
The American Dental Association is mobilizing its members to oppose the expansion of Medicare to include the benefits of dentistry, hearing and vision, arguing that it would be too costly for dentists. The American Independent Petroleum Association is fighting new charges or taxes on energy companies, which they say will increase customer costs. Similarly, the American Petroleum Institute has lobbied for methane emissions for a fee.
Mr Manchin, who is the main voice in the social safety net package, is closely linked to the fossil fuel industry, earning half a million dollars from coal production last year. Asked about these ties last week, Mr Manchin told reporters that these financial matters were run by blind trust. However, in a memorandum setting out his demands for the draft, he said he wanted control over all provisions related to climate change and was trying to limit tax increases for fossil fuel producers.
In particular, the American Bankers’ Association has proposed the introduction of tax disclosure requirements aimed at reducing high-income tax fraud.
“While the declared goal of this extensive data collection is to expose wealthy tax evasion, this proposal is far from being targeted at it or this population,” the organization recently wrote to lawmakers. The association said it had “significant privacy concerns” over the provision, which it said “created a huge responsibility for all parties affected”.
Supporters of Biden’s agenda have also been attacked.
The Workers’ Party recently began targeting critical ads against Ms. Sinema, who has received a campaign against business interests for packages.
“She would rather protect wealthy donors,” says one of the group’s ads for Ms Sinema, encouraging supporters to find out about their opposition.
Many centrist Democrats, who are the main targets of lobbying, deny that the campaign of influence shakes them.
Mr Peters said it was not surprising that he was receiving strong donations from pharmaceutical companies, noting that many of them, including Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Takeda, had offices in San Diego. He and Mr Schrader have put forward an alternative proposal that the industry favors.
“Although I carefully consider their contribution to the different aspects of each issue, I will vote on what I think best serves Oregonians, not their special interests,” Mr Schrader said.
Ms Rice said she was simply looking for a way to reduce drug costs that would likely win support in the Senate than the current proposal.
Vermont-independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is the key architect of the social safety net plan as chairman of the budget committee, said lobbying was as active as he had seen.
“At a time when we are trying to pass unprecedented legislation that benefits working families, we are seeing unprecedented lobbying by powerful special interests who want to defeat us,” Sanders said.