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Spanberger Breaks Ranks on $3 Trillion Aid Package

Facade of U.S. Capitol
The U.S. Capitol building (Wikimedia/Creative Commons)

Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger voted against a $3 trillion aid package on Friday, breaking ranks with her fellow Democrats on a marquee piece of legislation.

The 1,815-page proposal is the largest relief package in U.S. history. It allots nearly $1 trillion for hard-hit state, local and tribal governments, funds hazard pay for frontline workers, and extends unemployment payments until January.

House Democrats moved ahead with the plan without input for Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump have signaled the bill is dead on arrival.

Given those realities, Spanberger called the bill a “distraction.”

“It is not the right step to be voting on a bill that we know will not go anywhere in the Senate, and more importantly, will never become law,” she said.

The freshman Democrat called for the House to instead consider programs that pay businesses to continue to pay laid off workers, similar to the Paycheck Protection Program Congress previously passed as part of the third coronavirus relief package. Democrats and Republicans have both proposed versions of the idea.

Spanberger conceded flaws in the prior program and its execution by the Small Business Administration. Many small businesses struggled to navigate the application process while publicly-traded companies  snatched up loans, which turn into grants if conditions are met.

Still, Spanberger said the program had merit.

“Overall, the program has been classified by some that I represent as a godsend or a lifeline,” she said.

As some Virginia businesses re-open on Friday, Spanberger said she had concerns from businesses that the rules were not clear enough, and that testing was still falling short of what was needed. And she agreed with the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus’s argument that reopening would disproportionately harm people of color.

“The legislative black caucus is absolutely correct in raising alarms,” she said.

The freshman Democrat represents a Republican-leaning swing district. She narrowly defeated Republican Dave Brat in 2018.

The seat is a top priority for Republicans, who are holding a convention next month to select a nominee. State Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper), who leads the pack in fundraising, has stepped up attacks in recent weeks. In a statement last week, he accused Spanberger of ignoring accusations of sexual assault levied against Joe Biden, whom Spanberger endorsed, by his former staffer, Tara Reade. 

"Abigail Spanberger is once again in lockstep with Washington Democrats as they refuse to acknowledge Tara Reade’s accusations against Joe Biden," Freitas wrote on Twitter.

Biden has denied Reade's claims and called for them to be vetted by the media

"Joe Biden has called for those claims to be investigated," Spanberger said. "And I'm appreciative of the fact that he has taken that stance. I believe that all women should be listened to and that any claims of sexual abuse or assault or harassment,  for those seeking leadership positions should be fully heard."

Asked what form the investigations should take, Spanberger said that should be determined by "law enforcement and those who conduct investigations."


Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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