RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) is seeking her second term in the U.S. House of Representatives this November after narrowly winning Virginia’s 7th Congressional District seat in the 2018 midterms, flipping a district that had not chosen a Democrat in the last 50 years.
Spanberger, a former CIA case officer, defeated incumbent Dave Brat two years ago with a little more than 50 percent of the vote. It was a key victory for Democrats in a traditionally Republican district and helped the party seize control of the House.
The congresswoman is now facing off with state Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) in one of the most highly contested and watched races this election cycle.
- WATCH: A conversation with Nick Freitas on the COVID-19 response, his views on health care and the second stimulus package
The money spent on political advertisements for the competitive House race has been staggering, with more than $11 million this year. That’s $2 million more than what has been spent on presidential ads in Virginia.
Spanberger addressed a range of issues in an interview with 8News, including her thoughts on the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, why negotiations on a stimulus package have stalled and who’s at fault, health care coverage and her views on working across the aisle.
You can find and watch her responses, including edited and condensed excerpts, below:
Spanberger’s thoughts on the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic
“Very early on, we were receiving information and we know the administration was receiving information about the severity and the potential for a global pandemic as it related to the Covid-19 coronavirus. I am disappointed by the steps that the administration initially took in the early days of the pandemic. The steps that the administration did not take, in talking openly about the potential threats that we would see. I have been disappointed by the administration’s determination that they would not create a national testing strategy, as Congress has asked them to do.”
What is your assessment on how Congress has responded to the pandemic? On why talks over the latest stimulus package have stalled
“When it comes to Congress’ response, in the early days of the pandemic we quickly responded with four negotiated packages. When they were introduced in the House and Senate, they were bipartisan, bicameral. We knew that they were going to have the potential of delivering relief. And those first four steps, providing extended unemployment, providing support to businesses through creation of the PPP program. Those initial four packages were strong and demonstrated a unified effort to help the American people. In more recent months, however, the negotiations have stalled and the blame belongs on both sides of the aisle. In the Senate, Republican leadership, Leader McConnell, has abandoned the negotiating table. In the House, the Speakers put forth a bill that wasn’t negotiated, unlike those prior four bills that we knew would be partisan. So, I actually decided to vote against that and a subsequent partisan bill because in a time of a global pandemic it is not appropriate for us to spend even a minute focused on bills that we know won’t become law, that we know won’t deliver the relief that the American people need.”
On creating a bipartisan framework towards a new relief package after negotiations stopped
“I have been part of a bipartisan effort with the Problem Solvers Caucus. We developed a framework when the negotiators, leadership in the House, and Senate and White House, when they abandoned the negotiating table we determined that was not appropriate. That we needed to keep working for the American people. So a group of us, 25 Democrats, 25 Republicans, worked to create a framework based on programs that are necessary to support our constituents. Across the 50 of us, we represent millions of Americans and we were all hearing the same things. Small businesses need more support, localities support so they can buy PPE and fund their sanitation departments and their police officers and their first responders. And individuals need the support of extended unemployment for those businesses that aren’t hiring back to their prior levels. That schools need support, that we need to continue investing in testing and these were the programs that we prioritized, we built out that framework. Introduced it to our colleagues, ensured that they recognized that here is a framework of a proposal that Democrats and Republicans alike can agree on.”
On why providing additional relief is paramount to help Americans and businesses
“This is important from a larger economic standpoint because if we do not provide additional relief, across the board, economists have said that we are threatening greater economic distress for the larger economy. We will see the continued closure of small businesses. We will see a potential housing crisis looming as individuals are losing their jobs, not getting unemployment and not able to pay their rent or their mortgage. The domino effect of doing nothing is too severe for us to accept and so that’s why I won’t accept that as a possibility and I will keep working every day until we actually take a vote on a negotiated package that we know will deliver the relief that people need.”
What concerns you about the Republican health care plan? Have you heard one? Why do you feel protecting the Affordable Care Act is so important?
“My plan is to protect health care. My work in Congress is demonstrably my efforts to protect our current health care system and work to make it stronger. And I have heard from my opponent and from others that there are other plans out there that they support. But yet, no one has actually spoken of said plan. The president has talked multiple times about having another plan. There’s no plan. There’s no plan that’s been introduced. No plan that’s been spoken about. No details that have been released.”
“What we witnessed was, in 2017, the House of Representatives voted to do away with the ACA. The ACA is the only law of the land that protects people with preexisting conditions. Protects them in that they can not be denied health insurance because of a preexisting condition. And they cannot be charged exorbitant rates because of a health condition. The ACA is also the law of the land that ensures that people aren’t facing lifetime cap. So individuals who’ve had recurrent illnesses, won’t be denied coverage because they’ve already been deemed to be too expensive. The ACA is the law of the land that allows individuals to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they’re 26 years old.”
On if Congress missed a chance to repeal or change the ACA’s mandate to help protect it from the Supreme Court
“Congress has taken multiple steps to ensure that the protections put forth in the ACA, protections for people with preexisting conditions, protections for those who might potentially face lifetime caps, that those things are protected.”
“Congress has stood up to ongoing efforts by the administration to undo the ACA, both with votes and also, in the court system and where Congress has demonstrated a desire to make our current healthcare system stronger is with the passage of H.R. 3, H.R. 3 is a bill that passed with bipartisan support that would give Medicare the ability to negotiate its prescription drugs prices.”
Is substantial bipartisan work still possible in government? Why do you feel it’s important?
“Bipartisanship and working to get things done, working to build coalitions is necessary for the achievement of a long lasting, sustainable, good policy. Particularly at a time when we have divided government, it is important to build partisan coalitions of lawmakers around ideas, around priorities and around potential solutions. And I have worked across party lines. First and foremost, I’m a member of a bipartisan group, 25 Democrats, 25 Republicans. We’ve worked together on a whole host of issues and the common thread, uh, that we have, ideologies that, that span the spectrum.”
“Our common thread is that we are committed to finding places where we can work together and finding the coalitions that we can build. I have personally, um, worked very hard to build such coalitions and the bills that I have introduced the majority of them have been bipartisan. I’ve worked with Republican colleagues and support of their efforts.”
“And the legislation I have passed into law has been by partisan in nature. I passed border security related legislation with Congressman Will Hurd, a Republican from Texas, to address the issues of narco trafficking and human trafficking. I passed a piece of legislation with a former Congressman Mark Meadows, now the chief of staff of the president, focused on batting the distribution of sexually exploited images of children.”