Rep. Chris Pappas’ decision to back a $3.5 trillion social program spending plan had political activists cheering from D.C. to Manchester.
“Pappas is Doomed,” was the headline of a National Republican Congressional Committee email that hit just minutes after the First District Democrat’s vote.
“Democrats still haven’t voted on an infrastructure bill, but Chris Pappas just helped shove through a partisan $3.5 trillion socialist spending spree that will raise taxes on working families, increase the cost of everyday goods, and grant amnesty to illegal immigrants,” the email read.
“Democrats previously passed a separate $1.9 trillion boondoggle in March, and a new NBC poll shows only 35 percent of Americans believe that legislation is helping improve the economy. Chris Pappas’ latest socialist spending spree will be even more unpopular.”
Pappas was joined by fellow Granite Stater Rep. Annie Kuster and every Democratic member of the House. The massive spending plan — which doesn’t yet exist on paper — didn’t receive a single GOP vote. That’s in stark contrast to the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill which received 19 Republican votes in the U.S. Senate and, according to moderate Republican Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), could get 29 GOP votes in the House.
Kuster touted her vote for the $3.5 trillion mix of social programs, taxpayer-funded “free college” and green new deal mandates. “We have an incredible opportunity to invest in America’s future, to build back better from this public health and economic crisis, and to revitalize American industry for generations to come,” Kuster said.
Pappas, on the other hand, didn’t mention his vote for the Democrats’ budget reconciliation plan as of late Tuesday night, instead only talking about the bipartisan bill. If he’s hoping his vote for the most expensive government expansion since the Great Society legislation of the 1960s, it’s likely a forlorn hope.
“He’s ‘dead man walking,'” one longtime GOP operative told NHJournal. In GOP circles it’s a foregone conclusion Pappas will run for governor in 2022 rather than seek re-election in an anti-Democratic Party midterm, and in a district the GOP-controlled legislature is about to re-draw.
In fact, a conservative organization is already running ads targeting Sen. Maggie Hassan over provisions in the Democrats’ spending package.
The House Special Redistrict Committee is meeting on Wednesday in Concord to begin work on the Census data released earlier this month. And while Gov. Chris Sununu has pledged to veto any lines that don’t pass “the smell test,” which leaves plenty of latitude for Republicans to cook up a GOP-friendly district.
However, one prominent Democrat told NHJournal on background that they’ve heard no indication Pappas might not run for re-election next year. “I haven’t heard any undertones about that,” the Democrat said.
And in this volatile political era, anything can happen. But if Pappas is re-elected, it will be no thanks to his political strategy thus far.
Observers note Pappas has largely toed Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s political line, even as other Democrats in purple districts have defied her. Tuesday’s vote, for example, came with a promise the bipartisan infrastructure bill would come to the House floor no later than September 27, a demand made by 10 moderates and forced upon Pelosi. They don’t want the fate of the popular, bipartisan bill to be tied to the more radical Bernie Sanders-drafted budget.
“Where was Pappas?” one GOP strategist asked? “He could have been in that group. Then he could at least go down swinging [running for Congress.] He acts like someone who knows he’s not coming back.”
But if Pappas is planning on running for governor, how does voting against voter ID, federal overrides of local election laws, and massive social programs help? It could shore up his support among progressives, but these votes are almost certain to star in GOP campaign ads next year, no matter what office Pappas seeks.
On August 23, 2009, President Barack Obama’s polls were 52 percent approve, 41 percent disapprove. Obama didn’t have a humiliating fiasco in Afghanistan or soaring interest rates at home. Fourteen months later, Democrats lost 63 House seats and control of Congress.
Today, Joe Biden’s is at 41 percent approve, 55 percent disapprove. In New Hampshire, a new UNH Survey Center poll shows his numbers have plunged 11 points in a single month, from +1 to -10 (44 percent approve, 54 percent disapprove.)
And to paraphrase Texas Sen. Lloyd Benson, “Joe Biden, you’re no Barack Obama.”
There will be many political twists and turns over the next 14 months, and it’s far too early for meaningful predictions. But Pappas’ vote for the $3.5 trillion progressive wish list is hard to square with any strategy to win re-election in 2022.