WASHINGTON — A group of progressive activists in Hawaii has launched a six-figure campaign meant to convince U.S. Rep. Ed Case to support a $3.5 trillion spending plan that many consider critical to Joe Biden’s presidency.

Our Hawaii Action began running advertisements over the weekend criticizing Case for his hesitation regarding Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda, which includes weighty policy goals meant to cut child poverty, reduce the impacts of climate change and build more affordable housing.

Case is one of several moderate Democrats who have expressed misgivings about the size of the budget deal and some of its more ambitious provisions that are backed by the left wing of the party.

A mailer from Our Hawaii Action targeting U.S. Rep. Ed Case. Our Hawaii Action

Case has said he would prefer the House vote on a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan that has already passed the Senate, saying that he does not want to squander the opportunity by tying it to a more controversial measure — the $3.5 trillion spending plan — that so far has zero buy-in from Republicans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had promised Case and his cohorts a Sept. 27 vote on the infrastructure bill with the hopes that the spending plan would also be ready by then, but now Democratic leaders are worried they’re running out of time to meet the deadline, which threatens to sink the $3.5 trillion proposal altogether.

Democrats can only afford to lose three votes in the House, meaning that any defections from within the party could have resounding effect.

Our Hawaii Action was founded by former Hawaii state Rep. Kaniela Ing and Evan Weber, of Kailua, who is a co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, an organization of young climate activists. 

Ing ran against Case for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District in 2018 as a progressive and won the support of numerous national organizations, such as Our Revolution and the Democratic Socialists of America. He was also endorsed by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who stumped for him in the islands shortly after she won her first primary.

In a press release, Our Hawaii Action announced it would conduct door-to-door canvassing and spend $130,000 on print, radio and online advertising.

Weber told Civil Beat that the purpose of the campaign is to get Case to support legislation that will help the workers and citizens in his district who are most in need of help, especially in light of the toll Covid-19 had on Hawaii’s economy.

“What we’re about is building a Hawaii that works for all of us, not just the well-connected,” Weber said. “We are going to work to build a movement to make sure that we have politicians who live up to and uphold our local values.”

He said the seed money for the advertising comes from the Green New Deal Network, a national organization affiliated with labor and environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, SEIU and the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Our Hawaii Action is not the first outside group to weigh in on Case’s stance regarding Democrats’ $3.5 trillion reconciliation package and the bipartisan infrastructure bill. He’s received the support of both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and No Labels, which describes itself as a political centrist organization.

Case, meanwhile, defended his position in an emailed newsletter, saying that recent ads targeting him contained “misinformation,” although he did not provide specifics.

He lauded the bipartisan infrastructure plan, which he said, if passed, would bring about $2 billion to Hawaii. While the congressman said he supports many provisions in the $3.5 trillion spending package, he still has concerns over how it will be paid for.

“I believe that there is a limit to how much new revenue we can or should generate before it becomes too high a load on our businesses and families and instead cripples our ability to provide for real needs,” Case said.

“I also believe there is a limit to how much a simple majority in Congress will support. The reality is that, to formulate a social infrastructure measure that meets real needs, fairly spreads the burdens, and can actually pass Congress, we will have to make critical choices.”

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