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PolitiFact VA: Spanberger backs Biden in Congress, but they don't agree on every issue

A compostie of two images with people speaking in them
Prince William County Board of Supervisors member Yesli Vega (left) is running to unseat Rep. Abigail Spanberger in Virginia's 7th Congressional District. (File photos: LM Otero, Steve Helber/AP)  

Speaker: Yesli Vega
Statement: “Abigail Spanberger still votes with and shares Joe Biden’s positions 100% of the time.”
Date: July 11
Setting: Facebook post

President Joe Biden won’t be on ballots this fall, but his name will loom in Virginia’s closely-watched 7th Congressional District race between incumbent Democrat Rep. Abigail Spanberger and Republican Yesli Vega.

Vega, a Prince William County supervisor, is trying to tie Spanberger to Biden, who has a low 39% approval rating in Virginia, according to a recent poll.

“Abigail Spanberger still votes with and shares Joe Biden’s positions 100% of the time,” Vega said in a July 11 Facebook post.

We fact checked Vega’s claim and found it to be largely correct. Vega relied on data from FiveThirtyEight, a non-partisan website that collects and analyzes statistics on politics, sports and other topics. The site keeps records of each congress member’s presidential support — the percentage of times a congress member votes in support of the president when the White House has taken a clear position on legislation.

The website identifies 73 bills and resolutions on which Biden stated a position since taking office in January 2021. Spanberger backed Biden each time, including votes to:

  • Expand firearm regulations;
  • Cap out-of-pocket insulin costs; 
  • Strengthen voting rights laws;
  • Expand debt limits; 
  • Protect abortion rights;
  • Invest $1.2 trillion in infrastructure;
  • Provide $1.9 trillion for COVID relief.

Although Spanberger has always voted for Biden’s agenda, Vega overshoots in additionally saying Spanberger shares the president’s positions all of the time. In July, Fox News called her one “ of a handful of Democrats to break with her party to call attention to the southern border crisis…”

Spanberger disagreed with Biden’s efforts this spring to lift an emergency health order to turn away migrants at the U.S.-Mexican border. She has pushed Biden to take stronger steps to prevent fentanyl from crossing the border.

Some perspective

Spanberger’s voting record is typical in this highly partisan era; 199 of the 225 Democrats who have served in the House since Biden’s inauguration have 100% voting records with him. The lowest level of support by a House Democrat is 84.1%, by Rep. Jared Goldman (D-Maine).

Conversely, the median level of House Republican support for Biden is 11%. Only five of 216 Republicans have voted with Biden more than half of the time.

Donald Trump, during the final two years of his presidency, had median support of 92.5% from Republican House members and 6.8% from Democrats.

It should also be noted that presidential support is one way to measure a congress member’s partisanship.

Spanberger points to another way that’s used by the Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. It gauges how often a member of Congress introduces bills that attract co-sponsors from the other party, and how often they in turn co-sponsor a bill introduced from across the aisle.

Under this method, Spanberger was rated the fifth most bipartisan House member in 2021 — the most recent report.

Spanberger also points to a broad analysis of House votes by ProPublica, a non-profit investigative journalism service. It shows that she agreed with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarty (R-Calif.) on 389 of 840 votes - or 46% of the time - since January 2021.

Spanberger is seeking to distance herself from Biden this fall. She told Fox News in June that she’s not planning to stump with Biden. “I intend to do the campaigning myself,” she said. “I am the candidate. It’s my name on the ballot.”

Our ruling

Vega said, “Abigail Spanberger still votes with and shares Joe Biden’s positions 100% of the time.”

Vega correctly cites data from a nonpartisan website that measures the percentage of times a congress member votes in support of the president when the White House has taken a clear position on legislation. Spanberger’s record is not unique - 198 other Democratic House members also have 100% voting records with Biden since he became president.

Vega oversteps, however, in saying Spanberger shares Biden’s position all the time. She has, for example, disagreed with portions of Biden’s U.S.- Mexico border policies that have not been subject to votes.

All told, we rate Vega’s statement Mostly True.

Sources

Yesli Vega, Facebook post, July 11, 2022
Vega campaign, email, Aug. 9. 2022
Virginia Commonwealth University, poll, July 28, 20224
FiveThirtyEight, “Does Your Member Of Congress Vote With Or Against Biden?” accessed Aug. 8, 2022
Georgetown University, “The Lugar Center - McCourt School Bipartisan Index,” 2021
Abigail Spanberger, news releases, April 21, 2022; May 5, 2022
Email from Justin Chermol, press secretary for Spanberger’s campaign, Aug. 9, 2022
Fox News, “Republican and Democratic lawmakers push Biden admin to protect US border from fentanyl trafficking,” July 7, 2022
ProPublica, comparison of Spanberger and Kevin McCarthy’s voting records, accessed Aug. 9, 2022
Fox News, “House Democrat calls for new party leadership ahead of midterm elections,” June 28, 2022 (5:00 mark)