What to Know in Washington: Midterm Ads Target Biden’s Big Win

  • Parties spin messaging on Inflation Reduction Act before midterms
  • Biden to assail Republicans during prime-time speech Thursday

Democrats see relief for elderly diabetics, whose skyrocketing insulin costs will be capped at $35 a month. Republicans see an expensive army of black-suited IRS agents marching on innocent taxpayers.

They’re both looking at the same new law—a health care, tax and spending package known as the Inflation Reduction Act that passed along party lines before Congress’s August recess and is set to be the centerpiece of fall ad campaigns in key Senate battleground states.

A Republican-allied super PAC is airing a TV ad in Nevada that attacks Catherine Cortez Masto, a vulnerable Democrat seeking reelection, for backing the new law’s increased IRS funding. Cortez Masto “spends, then sics her massive IRS on middle-class families to pay for it,” the spot says.

J.B. Poersch, the head of Senate Democrats biggest super PAC, says get ready for a coming ad blitz targeting Republicans who opposed the new law’s drug price controls. “Democrats took action to lower costs and bring down drug prices while Republicans stood by the wayside pointing fingers and offering zero solutions.”

Republicans need a net gain of just one seat to flip control of the 50-50 Senate. They have relentlessly criticized Democrats for supporting government spending, which they blame for the highest inflation in decades.

President Joe Biden’s approval ratings have risen in recent weeks but remain low, despite legislative wins notched by Democrats, as Americans continue to doubt the economy. More Americans have disapproved than approved of Biden’s handling of his job as president for about a year, Gallup polls show. The new law implicitly acknowledges the Republican criticism. Kenneth P. Doyle has more.

Biden plans to deliver a prime-time speech Thursday in Philadelphia assailing Republicans for what he regards as their threats to US rights and freedoms, seeking to buoy his own party’s prospects in upcoming midterm elections. Biden will speak about the continued “battle for the soul of the nation,” a White House official said, reviving a theme from his campaign in 2020 against former President Donald Trump.

The president will warn that the country’s core values, including democracy itself, are at stake, the White House official said. He’ll stress that it’s his party fighting to preserve American rights, freedoms and democracy, the official said.

The speech comes as Trump continues to sow widespread conspiracies and doubt in the election process. On Monday, he called for his 2020 election defeat to be overturned. Read more from Josh Wingrove and Justin Sink.


On Lawmakers’ Radars

Two Senate Republicans are urging Biden to enlist the private sector for a more coordinated Covid-19 response, much like the Trump administration did in 2020. In asking Biden to launch Operation Warp Speed 2.0, Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) lauded the Trump-era pandemic response effort as a way to cut regulatory red tape and use the military’s capabilities. Read more from Patty Nieberg.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell claims the US is likely to tip into a recession as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates to combat historic inflation, which he blamed on Democrats’ spending. McConnell said the answer for the economy is greater fiscal austerity and that Republicans will serve as a key check on any big spending plans by the Biden administration if they win one or both chambers of Congress in November’s midterms. Read more from Steven T. Dennis.

  • Meanwhile, the White House gave the Federal Reserve leeway to raise interest rates to tame inflation, a day after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) warned that the central bank’s actions could tip the economy into a recession. “We don’t want to step on what the Federal Reserve is going to do,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. She cited recent data showing prices in the US falling nationwide. Read more from Nancy Cook and Jennifer Jacobs.

Blake Masters, the Republican US Senate nominee in Arizona, said in a sarcastic tweet that the current racial and gender diversity at the Federal Reserve is responsible for the US’s current economic outlook. The candidate, who was trailing Mark Kelly, the Democratic incumbent, by eight points in a Fox News poll released last week, re-tweeted an Associated Press report that detailed the record number of women, as well as Black and openly LGBTQ people, in key roles at the Federal Reserve. Read more from Ella Ceron.

A group of 18 US representatives is demanding Credova Financial answer questions about its no-interest financing options for the purchase of guns and ammunition. In a letter Monday to Credova CFO Dusty Wunderlich, the lawmakers said that they are seeking information about the provision and marketing of buy-now-pay-later financing for internet purchases of guns and related accessories. Read more from Molly Schuetz and Michael Tobin.

A Ninth Circuit panel struggled with Congress’ ambiguous legislative text establishing what online platforms like Reddit had to know in order to face liability for child sex trafficking taking place on their sites during oral argument on Monday. The dispute, which arose from anonymous victims of child pornography who sued Reddit for allegedly “turning a blind eye” to the trafficking, hinged on a 2018 amendment (Public Law 115-164) to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Read more from Isaiah Poritz.

Around the Administration


  • Biden at 3:15 p.m. will deliver remarks on his plan to further reduce gun crime in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

The Biden administration is preparing to sell $1.1 billion in missiles and radar support to Taiwan, according to an official familiar with the matter. The State Department informally notified Congress of the sale late Monday. Read more from Tony Capaccio, Samson Ellis and Daniel Flatley.

A group of large US freight railroads has reached tentative agreements with unions representing more than 15,000 workers, a step to avoid a widespread strike after years of failed labor talks. The deals with three of the 12 rail unions come several weeks after a mediation board appointed by the White House issued recommendations including wage increases and expanded health coverage. Read more from Augusta Saraiva.

The Department of Homeland Security is looking to test commercial chemical and biological threat detection and mitigation technologies in New York’s subways, the largest mass transit system in North America. The project is part of a larger DHS effort to provide financial support for terrorism preparedness programs in dense urban regions. The program was given $615 million in the fiscal 2021 budget. Read more from Patty Nieberg.


  • A US Secret Service agent whose name figured prominently in testimony before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection has retired from the agency. Tony Ornato retired on Monday after 25 years with the Secret Service “in good standing,” a spokesman said. It wasn’t immediately clear what prompted the move. Read more from Josh Wingrove.
  • Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected a bid by a New York police detective to block the city’s requirement that employees be vaccinated against Covid. Sotomayor denied the emergency request from Anthony Marciano without seeking a response from the city. Read more from Greg Stohr.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Zachary Sherwood at zsherwood@bloombergindustry.com