Friday September 24th, 2021 9:16PM

Sales pitch summer? Dems aim to showcase virus relief effort

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

MAIDENS, Va. (AP) — When Sherry Brockenbrough and her family opened a distillery on a leafy vista overlooking the James River on March 5, 2020, the coronavirus still seemed like a distant threat.

But in the coming weeks, Hill Top Distillery faced the kind of barriers few businesses could survive and almost none had prepared for. By the thousands, restaurants, breweries and distilleries across the country would largely shutter.

Brockenbrough moved to swiftly adapt, replacing tasting room gatherings with curbside pickup and outdoor, distanced activities. Still, she was not close to meeting her financial goals and the distillery hasn't turned a profit, leaving the 63-year-old Brockenbrough and her husband, John, to pump even more of their savings into the business to keep it going.

“It’s a really scary place to be with no money coming in,” she said.

Her business was sustained in part by money that came from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the pandemic relief legislation that Congress passed in March solely with Democratic votes. She is using the funds to buy new equipment and make improvements to the property, investments she hopes will lure customers interested in her vodka, whiskey and moonshine.

“We are grateful,” Brockenbrough said. The funds “take the edge off. You're not hitting the panic button going ‘okay now what?’”

This summer, Democrats are also hoping they get a return on the investment in businesses like Brockenbrough's. With Democrats facing formidable prospects in the battle to retain both chambers of Congress, the virus rescue package may be the party's best opportunity to argue their work in Washington had a positive, tangible effect on communities across the country during a time of historic crisis.

The sense of urgency is growing as other ambitious pillars of the Democratic agenda, ranging from the protection of voting rights to a far-reaching infrastructure package and reforms of policing, gun rights and immigration, are at risk in an evenly divided Senate. That raises the prospect that the rescue package may emerge as the most significant piece of legislation for Democrats to campaign on next year.

That could be crucial in some of the nation’s most narrowly divided congressional districts that may decide control of the House, including this one that stretches through 10 counties of suburbs and rural communities in central Virginia. Republicans need a net gain of just five seats to retake the House next year and are eyeing this district, currently represented by Democrat Abigail Spanberger, as a prime pickup opportunity.

As they make their sales pitch, Democrats are aiming to avoid a repeat of the perceived mistakes of former President Barack Obama's administration, when policy accomplishments on health care, taxes and the economy didn't translate into easy political wins. Democrats suffered dramatic losses in the first midterm after Obama's election, and the former president himself has acknowledged that he and his team often focused more on designing sound policy than selling it politically.

“We can't just be the nice people and say, oh, this is great, all the things we've been able to do,” said Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison. “People need to understand who actually did it. The ‘D’ in Democrat stands for delivers.”

The DNC has already spent the past several months peppering local markets across the country with billboards, digital and television ads reminding voters of the hometown Democrats who helped pass the rescue plan. As Americans gather for more traditional July Fourth celebrations next month, the party plans to start a new campaign highlighting the role the legislation played in restoring normalcy this summer.

The enhanced child tax credit that will begin rolling out on July 15 will give Democrats another opportunity to highlight provisions of the rescue package and make the case that Americans have more money ahead of the back-to-school shopping season because of the legislation.

The rescue measure is the centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s pandemic response and has, so far, received praise from a majority of Americans. A late March poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed 54% approving of the massive virus relief package, while 25% disapproved. There’s a dramatic partisan split, however, with 80% of Democrats backing the measure compared to just 26% of Republicans.

Although Republicans united in opposing the legislation, they have promoted some of its more popular provisions, including the assistance for restaurants, which has directed $24.4 billion to 95,000 participants, according to the Small Business Administration.

Democrats have accused the GOP of hypocrisy and are certain to use the legislation as a cudgel against Republicans next year. But the GOP is betting that other economic issues may take precedence, including concerns about inflation and arguments that some provisions in the bill make it less attractive for the jobless to find work.

“Countless small businesses across the country have been hurt by Democrats’ $1.9 trillion socialist giveaway because it incentivized people not to work," said Mike Berg, a spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which focuses on retaking control of the House. "Even worse, Democrats’ spending spree is causing inflation, which is a hidden tax on every single American.”

If Republicans successfully recast the legislation as a costly government giveaway, that could prove powerful in sharply divided congressional districts like the one that includes Hill Top Distillery. Extending from the western suburbs of Richmond to exurban Washington, D.C., it was once firmly Republican territory and sent Eric Cantor, the former House majority leader, to Congress.

But the booming Richmond suburbs have tipped the district narrowly toward Democrats. In 2018, Spanberger became the first Democrat to win the seat in several decades. She was reelected last year by about 8,000 votes out of roughly 453,000 cast and is a top target of Republicans heading into 2022.

After touring the distillery this week, Spanberger acknowledged concerns about the cost of the rescue program, but said she would enter the election year focused on its benefits.

“It's a risk to spend billions of dollars supporting distilleries and breweries and restaurants,” Spanberger said. “But if they all go under, that's a loss for the community, that's a loss from an employment standpoint."

“When I'm talking about what the value of this bill was,” she continued, “yes, it was a tremendous investment, but that's what it was — an investment.”

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, AP Business, AP Elections - Campaigns, AP Business - Economy
© Copyright 2021
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Sales pitch summer? Dems aim to showcase virus relief effort
Democrats have a sales job of their own this summer
12:17AM ( 10 minutes ago )
Biden, Johnson to stress close ties, manage differences
Their nations may have a famed “special relationship,” but President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet for the first time Thursday against a backdrop of differences both political and personal
12:13AM ( 14 minutes ago )
The new guy? Biden debuts at democracy's most exclusive club
It's a very exclusive club, perhaps the most selective in the world
12:04AM ( 24 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
AP Exclusive: State bar investigating Texas attorney general
The Texas bar association has opened an investigation into whether Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s failed efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election amounted to professional misconduct
9:37PM ( 2 hours ago )
Biden opens overseas trip declaring 'United States is back'
President Joe Biden has opened his first overseas trip of his term with a declaration that “the United States is back.”
8:21PM ( 4 hours ago )
McGahn: Effort to get Mueller fired was 'point of no return'
Former White House counsel Don McGahn told lawmakers in a closed-door interview last week that he regarded President Donald Trump’s demand to have special counsel Robert Mueller fired as “a point of no return” for the administration if carried out
7:43PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Nominee to oversee Indigenous affairs has widespread support
President Joe Biden's nominee to oversee Indigenous affairs at the Interior Department says he doesn't want to get in tribes' way as they seek to improve infrastructure, public safety and the economy on their lands
5:45PM ( 6 hours ago )
US drops Trump order targeting TikTok, plans its own review
The White House has dropped Trump-era executive orders that attempted to ban the popular apps TikTok and WeChat and will conduct its own review aimed at identifying national security risks with software applications tied to China
5:43PM ( 6 hours ago )
For infrastructure deal, Biden eyes 'multiple paths forward'
President Joe Biden is pursuing “multiple paths forward” as he looks to muscle his big infrastructure package through Congress
5:28PM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Mongolian ruling party seen winning presidency amid pandemic
Preliminary results in Mongolia’s presidential election show the chairman of the ruling Mongolian People’s Party and former prime minister Ukhnaa Khurelsukh winning by a large margin
2:24PM ( 10 hours ago )
The Latest: Japan's Suga sets vaccine goal as Olympics near
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says he is aiming to have everyone in the country vaccinated by November, a target he set with a general election scheduled for later this year
7:20AM ( 17 hours ago )
McAuliffe win sets up Virginia clash with outsider Youngkin
Democrat Terry McAuliffe has handily won his party’s nomination in his quest for a return to the governor's mansion in Virginia
6:20AM ( 18 hours ago )
AP Elections
The Latest: Pot-for-shots plan stumbles in Washington state
Washington state’s new “joints for jabs” vaccination incentive program is off to a rough start
9:02PM ( 3 hours ago )
Washington's 'joints for jabs' vaccine program falling flat
Washington’s new “joints for jabs” vaccination incentive program is off to a rough start
8:41PM ( 3 hours ago )
Own an Echo? Amazon may be helping itself to your bandwidth
Do you own an Amazon smart device
8:01PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Business
'A lot of anxiety' for Democrats as Biden agenda stalls
Six months into the Democrats’ hold on Washington, the party’s progressive wing is growing increasingly restless
7:50AM ( 1 day ago )
Mexico president appears to hold key majority in elections
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s party and its allies appeared poised to maintain their majority in Mexico’s lower chamber of the congress
3:46PM ( 2 days ago )
Manchin's opposition clouds future of Dems' elections bill
A key Democratic senator says he won't vote for the largest overhaul of U.S. election law in at least a generation
1:34PM ( 3 days ago )
AP Elections - Campaigns
The Latest: US to pay more to vaccinate older adults at home
Medicare is announcing a significant increase in what it will pay to vaccinate homebound older people against COVID-19
4:54PM ( 7 hours ago )
The Latest: Canada looks to ease travel quarantine rules
Canada’s health minister says fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents who test negative for COVID-19 will soon be exempt from a two-week quarantine when returning to the country
4:03PM ( 8 hours ago )
US stock indexes veer lower, while 'meme' stocks swing again
Major U.S. indexes veered lower on Wall Street in Wednesday afternoon trading as a pullback in banks and industrial companies offset gains elsewhere in the market
3:41PM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
Biden, Johnson to stress close ties, manage differences
Their nations may have a famed “special relationship,” but President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet for the first time Thursday against a backdrop of differences both political and personal
12:13AM ( 14 minutes ago )
The new guy? Biden debuts at democracy's most exclusive club
It's a very exclusive club, perhaps the most selective in the world
12:04AM ( 24 minutes ago )
Bruised but unbowed, meme stock investors are back for more
GameStop and other meme stocks are jumping again
12:01AM ( 27 minutes ago )
Chris Paul has another big night, Suns rout Nuggets 123-98
Chris Paul had 17 points and 15 assists without a turnover, Devin Booker added 18 points and 10 rebounds and the Phoenix Suns routed the Denver Nuggets 123-98 on Wednesday night to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals
12:00AM ( 28 minutes ago )
Cole spins a win as Stanton powers Yankees past Twins 9-6
Gerrit Cole got back on track with six sharp innings, and Giancarlo Stanton hit two of the New York Yankees’ four home runs to fuel a 9-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins
11:51PM ( 37 minutes ago )