Johnson, Kind
Both Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and Democratic Rep. Ron Kind are the targets of political television ads for their votes on the American Rescue Plan Act. Johnson is being criticized for opposing pandemic relief while Kind is being thanked for his support. (Photos provided.)

With broad support for direct checks, business relief and Medicaid expansion, groups backing the Biden plan slam Republicans who opposed it.

Determined to show they’ve learned lessons from the electoral disaster of 2010, Democrats and their allies are going on offense quickly and aggressively in support of the American Rescue Plan, with ads supporting at least one Wisconsin member of Congress who voted for it and a new batch of ads attacking another who opposed it.

The Democratic National Committee has announced a multi-faceted effort that includes a national advertising campaign designed to sell a politically divided America on the merits of the $1.9 trillion federal COVID-19 relief legislation signed into law Thursday by President Joe Biden. House Majority PAC, the political arm of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is also running ads in battleground markets, including Wisconsin, aimed at portraying Democrats as the political party that is helping an America stricken by the pandemic, as opposed to Republicans standing in the way of such relief efforts.

Among the politicians supported by the House Majority PAC ads is US Rep. Ron Kind (D-La Crosse), who voted in favor of the relief plan and who faced stiff competition for his seat in the November 2020 election. The 12-term Democrat narrowly defeated Republican challenger Derrick Van Orden, winning by a 51% to 49% margin.

“COVID-19 has caused an economic and public health emergency like we’ve never seen before, and we must meet this moment,” Kind said of the relief plan in a news release. “Wisconsinites are in agreement: we need the American Rescue Plan.”   

Concurrently, the progressive group Opportunity Wisconsin announced Monday it has launched a new digital ad campaign targeting Republican US Sen. Ron Johnson for his continued opposition to broad-based COVID-19 relief legislation even as many across the state continue to face financial challenges related to the ongoing pandemic. 

Opportunity Wisconsin announced its campaign in a news release and said the new ad is part of a six-figure buy to let Wisconsin residents know that Johnson, a senator from Oshkosh, failed to support the American Rescue Plan (ARP) that will provide financial assistance to Wisconsinites and other Americans struggling as the coronavirus pandemic continues. 

“As the Badger State starts to dig out of the devastation we’ve experienced, we can’t forget who fought for us and who failed us,” Megan Roh, Opportunity Wisconsin program director, said in the release. “Senator Johnson stood in the way of Wisconsin’s recovery and we must all hold him accountable for it.”

Earlier: 90% of Wisconsinites Are Likely to Get Direct Aid Through the American Rescue Plan

The new ads against Johnson follow a three-week $1 million statewide TV ad campaign by Opportunity Wisconsin in which Wisconsin residents urged him to stop halting COVID-19 relief checks for state residents. 

Johnson has spoken repeatedly against the latest round of COVID-19 relief funding, calling it a “Democrat wish list” and saying it is too costly. He forced a reading of the 628-page bill before the Senate in an effort to delay its vote. None of the 50 Republican senators supported the measure despite polling showing strong support for more COVID-19 relief from both Democrats and Republicans.

“This is not COVID relief – it is a massive debt burden that further mortgages our children’s future,” Johnson said in a statement

Included in the relief package are $1,400 per-person payments, funding to businesses, schools, local governments, and others to help as they try to make up for lost revenues during the pandemic. The measure also provides money for expanding COVID-19 vaccination efforts and dollars to assist people at risk of losing housing.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes praised the new bill, saying it will provide much-needed relief to state residents who continue to struggle financially because of the pandemic. During a press conference Friday with Protect Our Care Wisconsin, he said President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act would provide much-needed relief to Wisconsinites, particularly working people, “people who have been dealt a bad hand over the course of this pandemic through no fault of their own.”

“Quite frankly, we need it. On so many levels,” Barnes said. “This will provide relief directly to the American people in a way that will boost the economy.”

Barnes particularly stressed the need for $1 billion in revenue from the federal government that would be available to Wisconsin if the state decided to expand BadgerCare, which provides healthcare coverage to low-income adults. That is in addition to the $635 million the state would receive without the ARPA funds, totaling $1.66 billion that would come to the state to expand BadgerCare.

Wisconsin’s Republican leadership repeatedly has refused to accept Medicaid funding allowing it to expand the BadgerCare program.

“Nobody in the middle of a public health emergency should have to worry about health insurance,” Barnes said. “It is unconscionable that that is the case. It was unconscionable that that was the case before, but now the need could not be more highlighted.”  

In 2010, Republicans took advantage of Democratic in-fighting and a still-struggling economy to savage former President Obama’s signature legislation, convincing many voters that the new Affordable Care Act was a boondoggle. Democrats lost around 1,000 legislative seats during Obama’s first term. Since then, the landmark healthcare coverage plan has attained public support and Democrats have gained about half of those legislative seats back.