|Derrick Anderson, one of more than half a dozen Republicans seeking their party’s nomination to challenge the congresswoman, said in a statement, “President Biden’s first year in office has been a disaster and Abigail Spanberger has been right by his side.”|
February 16th, 2022
CULPEPER — President Joe Biden visited a heavily Republican rural stronghold in Virginia on Thursday to join Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, to push Congress to take action on proposals to reduce the price of insulin and other prescription drugs.
The president appeared with Spanberger at Germanna Community College with a message of “lowering costs for families” on the same day the Consumer Price Index posted a 7.5% gain in January, making inflation a potent political issue in the upcoming midterm congressional elections.
Biden chose a nationally watched political battleground district to focus on reviving portions of his Build Back Better spending package, including provisions to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.
“Inflation is up,” Biden acknowledged, but he said, “If we do the things I’m talking about, it will bring down the costs for the average family.”
The president was accompanied by a family from Chesterfield County to make the case. He was introduced by Joshua Davis, a Midlothian-area middle school student on the cusp of his 13th birthday, whose family pays $6,000 to $7,000 a year on insulin for him and his father, Brian, who both have Type 1 diabetes.
“My entire life, this is all I have ever known and, until there is a cure, all I will ever know,” said Joshua, a seventh-grader at Swift Creek Middle School who was diagnosed at 11 months.
Biden wished him a happy birthday and marveled at his cool.
“Thank you, Mr. President,” Biden told Joshua. “I could have no more done that when I was 12 years old than fly.”
Joshua, in turn, was introduced by his mother, Shannon, a former teacher who said her son and husband must share both insulin and strategies to conserve it because of the cost.
“I know plenty of families that have had to skip insulin doses,” she said.
Spanberger, who first ran for election in 2018 in part to defeat Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, has made a priority of the Build Back Better Act’s provisions to cap insulin prices at $35 a dose and allow the federal Medicare program to negotiate drug prices.
But she said Thursday, “I welcome any effort that can deliver lower drug prices to the people I serve.”
The COVID-19 pandemic “has exacerbated what was already a staggering day-to-day cost for Virginia families, and we are long overdue in addressing it,” she said.
Spanberger has supported Biden’s economic agenda, including passage of the American Rescue Plan Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, as well as the Build Back Better Act, formerly known as the American Families Plan.
But she has also sometimes distanced herself from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic progressive wing in her willingness to scale back the president’s spending plans to win political support and rebuild the economy during the pandemic.
“Nobody elected him to be [Franklin D. Roosevelt],” she told The New York Times in November. “They elected him to be normal and stop the chaos.”
Biden and Spanberger embraced after her remarks Thursday, and the president later praised the representative.
“It’s great to be here with Abigail, Congresswoman Spanberger,” Biden said. “In every chapter of her career, she’s always been about one thing — service.”
Regarding drug prices, Biden said: “Medicare can negotiate everything except drug prices.”
The $1.75 trillion package stalled in the Senate this year after failing to win support of all 50 Democrats necessary to pass the bill in the evenly divided chamber. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he was unwilling to support such a large spending package with inflation rising, but he signaled he still wants to take action to lower drug prices.
The president castigated pharmaceutical companies for inflating the price of essential medicines far beyond the cost to produce them.
“The idea that you can charge whatever you want is not going to happen in the United States of America,” he said.
Biden said he could solve the problem “with the stroke of a pen” if Congress would adopt his proposals.
“We just need to get it through the U.S. Senate, and we’re close,” he said.
The president acknowledged that Americans are frustrated with inflation and rising prices on consumer products, especially gasoline.
“I’m going to work like the devil to bring gas prices down,” he said.
Spanberger is seeking election to a third term in the 7th Congressional District, which no longer will be anchored in the Richmond suburbs where she lives, but centered instead on eastern Prince William County and the Fredericksburg area.
Culpeper is one of three counties she represents in the current 7th — along with Spotsylvania and Orange counties — that will become part of a newly drawn district that includes Fredericksburg and parts of 10 other counties.
National Republican groups have targeted Spanberger along with Reps. Elaine Luria, D-2nd, and Jennifer Wexton, D-10th, in midterm elections that will determine control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
After the president’s visit was announced, Republicans alternately faulted her for being too close to the president and suggested she would try to distance herself from Biden, whose popularity has fallen.
Derrick Anderson, one of more than half a dozen Republicans seeking their party’s nomination to challenge the congresswoman, said in a statement, “President Biden’s first year in office has been a disaster and Abigail Spanberger has been right by his side.”
State Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, who is also running for the GOP nomination in the 7th, issued a statement denouncing Biden and Spanberger for what he called “their failed agenda” and a 40-year high in consumer prices.
A small group of protesters lined the road leading to the community college, holding signs directing an obscene chant at Biden — coded as “Let’s Go Brandon” — and touting Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s successful campaign against former Gov. Terry McAuliffe last fall, the first Republican victory in a statewide election in Virginia since 2009.
Spanberger has lost Culpeper County in both of her elections but has some support in the county, which she has represented since the beginning of 2019.
“She’s familiar with the community, and we’re familiar with her,” said Dana Hunter, a member of the community college’s facilities staff whom she greeted before the president’s speech.
Hunter’s colleague, Forrest Donald, said the community college was the site of a congressional debate during Spanberger’s 2018 campaign against then-Rep. David Brat, R-7th, whom she defeated.
Still, this visit was different, Donald said. “We’ve had governors and senators before, but this was the first president.”