May 30, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Campaigns look past debt ceiling bill for attack ads

Illustration of an elephant and donkey walking off with a background made of fragments of the debt ceiling deal bill.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

With House Democrats and Republicans alike expected to split on Wednesday's debt ceiling vote, both parties' campaign apparatuses see little benefit in using the bill as fodder for attack ads, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The debt ceiling has been a source of considerable partisan sniping for months, but the bipartisan deal reached by President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is frustrating both ideological flanks and causing more internal party griping than external.

What we're hearing: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) — as well as aligned super PACs — plan to stick with their current lines of attack, according to sources familiar with their plans.

  • The Democrats are focused on the debt ceiling bill Republicans passed along party lines last month — specifically its impacts on veterans' benefits and jobs, according to two Democratic sources.
  • The Republicans, meanwhile, are targeting Democrats' discharge petition to force a clean debt ceiling increase, which all 213 House Democrats have signed onto, a GOP source told Axios.

Yes, but: Another GOP source said Republicans are watching how the vote shakes out, signaling the party's plans could change down the line.

What we're watching: While the bill may not be featured in negative ads, it has already fueled some positive spots.

  • GOP issue advocacy group American American Network is running ads touting the legislation and McCarthy's ability to get Biden to the negotiating table.
  • "I think Republicans can take a victory lap" after the vote, said one GOP source.

What they're saying: A Republican strategist said getting his entire conference to sign onto the discharge petition was a "major tactical blunder" by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).

  • "It was [dead on arrival] and handed Republicans a tailor-made issue to campaign against: that their actual position is for zero spending cuts," said the strategist, pointing to polling that suggests voters favor spending cuts.
  • A Democratic strategist called that argument "ridiculous" and "a perfect example of Republicans gunning for chaos and a recession because they think they can campaign on it rather than actually working to make our government function."
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