Roll Call: In battleground Virginia district, Biden touts Spanberger work on health care

ROLL CALL, MARY ELLEN MCINTIRE

President Joe Biden went to Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s district Thursday and praised her work on health care issues, including a bill to lower the cost of prescription drugs that remains stalled in the Senate.

“Bringing down the cost of health care, bringing down the cost of prescription drugs, is an easy thing for us to do. It can be done legally with a stroke of a pen,” Biden said at a community college in Culpeper, Va. “We just got to get Abigail’s enthusiasm that she got it through in the House of Representatives to the United States Senate.” 

Spanberger, who flipped a Republican seat in 2018 in part by campaigning to protect and expand health care, faces a tough battle to win a third term in a state that elected Republicans to statewide offices in 2021. Biden’s approval ratings have fallen lately, and some Democratic lawmakers reportedly won’t say whether they would appear with the president ahead of this year’s midterm elections. 

Spanberger told reporters Biden’s visit, which also included Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, wasn’t a campaign-sponsored event but a way to connect her constituents with the president.

“I have the opportunity to literally give my constituents the opportunity to tell their stories to the president,” she said. “That’s, for me, the height of what representation can and should be.”

She’s running this year in the 7th District, which backed Biden over Donald Trump by 6 percentage points in 2020 but then supported GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin over Democrat Terry McAuliffe by 5 points last year, according to the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates her reelection race Tilt Democratic. 

House Democrats passed a bill last year that would allow Medicare to negotiate prices for some prescription drugs and would cap the amount that diabetics could pay out of pocket for insulin at $35 a month, among other things. Other issues included in the bill have stopped it from advancing in the Senate. 

Repeatedly referring to the congresswoman by her first name, Biden said she had campaigned against GOP efforts to repeal the 2010 health care overhaul. He also touted how a COVID-19 recovery bill passed exclusively with Democratic votes last year included provisions to lower the cost of premiums for coverage through that law.

“Compared to last year, the average monthly premium for Virginia, for Virginians, has gone down more than 25 percent,” Biden said.

He also gave her credit for a bill that passed when Trump was in the White House that directed the Department of Health and Human Services to report on prescription drug pricing trends and rebates, which was included in a year-end spending measure that also prohibited surprise medical billing.

“A couple of years ago, Abigail worked to pass bipartisan legislation to make drug prices more transparent so you knew what you’re paying for,” Biden said. “And my administration is working with Abigail to make sure we enforce that.”

Biden said efforts to lower health care costs would help families also struggling with high costs for groceries and gas after the Labor Department said Thursday that inflation rose 7.5 percent over the past year.

Republicans running for the nomination to challenge Spanberger in November used the event to argue that she is voting in step with Biden and other Democrats after state voters backed Youngkin. 

“Only a few months ago, Terry McAuliffe brought Joe Biden to our Commonwealth and Virginians overwhelmingly rejected them both, and by an even larger margin in the 7th than statewide,” Republican Yesli Vega said in a statement ahead of the visit. “Now, only a month into the 2022 election, Abigail Spanberger is taking a page out of Terry’s playbook and has called in a favor to her D.C. overlords to come help with 10 months left until November.”

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