Democrats feel new urgency on Biden’s agenda after Virginia defeat

Democrats hurt by election losses in Virginia and New Jersey on Tuesday feel new pressure to act President BidenJoe Biden Five Takeaways from a Bleak Night for Democrats Youngkin Wins Virginia Governor’s Race Michelle Wu Chosen as Boston’s First Mayor MOREThe domestic agenda in the face of political headwinds that seem almost certain to cost the party its already small majorities in Congress.

Factions negotiating over the mass reconciliation package shared the blame for the beating even before the polls closed. By Wednesday, new fissures emerged as president of the Chamber Nancy pelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money – Presented by Citi – Democrats get closer to a deal on Biden’s agenda Moderate Democrats push for scores before voting on Biden’s package Democrats on cusp of broad deal on Biden’s agenda MORE (D-Calif.) He added four weeks of paid family leave to a bill, even when Sen. Joe manchinJoe ManchinOvernight Energy & Environment – Presented by the American Petroleum Institute – Biden seeks to tackle methane Biden rallies nations to reduce methane emissions Democrats give Manchin warning about lack of progress on spending bill MORE (DW.Va.), one of the two moderates at the center of the negotiations, said he could not support such a provision.

Speaking to reporters, Manchin called the results of Tuesday’s election, in which Republicans won Virginia governor and nearly upset New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), “unbelievable.”

“If we are going to do something, let’s take some time and do it well. Let’s make sure people know what’s in it, ”Manchin said. “We are talking about renewing the entire tax code. That is mammoth. Totally. We have not had hearings, we have not had open hearings. “

But Democratic strategists said they feared otherwise, that a protracted process of negotiations and infighting between moderates and progressives threatened to worsen a bad political environment.

“My concern is that Manchin and [Sen. Kyrsten] Sinema (D-Ariz.) Will feel emboldened to push for more moderation, but the midterm elections are grassroots elections, and they are not the heroes around which the rank and file will rally, ”said Ed Espinoza, Democratic strategist. who runs Progress Texas. .

Moderate organizations like Third Way cited the congressional stalemate as a key cause of their party’s defeat in Virginia.

“The inability of the Democrats, at least so far, to deliver on the promises that Joe Biden made last year is an unforced error,” said Matt Bennett, spokesman for Third Way. “The months of infighting and sausage making must come to an end. We must pass these two landmark bills and then explain what they will do to create jobs, cut taxes and help working families pay for essentials. “

The new urgency reminded some of the last time Republicans won big in off-year elections, in 2009. In Virginia, Bob McDonnell won the governor’s mansion; in New Jersey, Chris ChristieChris Christie What New Jersey Governor’s Contest Tells Us About Christie’s Political Landscape: 2020 Joe Biden ‘Now Officially Dead and Buried’ Christie, Pompeo Named Co-Chairs of Republican Redistricting Group MORE claimed the first of his two terms. The results shook the Democratic majority in Washington, which was in the midst of finalizing the Affordable Care Act, the then president Barack ObamaBarack Hussein Obama LIVE COVERAGE: Youngkin Wins Virginia; New Jersey gubernatorial race in tie Kal Penn says he was mocked by the Obamas for running for a White House job via the website Biden’s Policies Are Creating Jobs – For Robots MOREcharacteristic achievement of national politics.

“The way to pass laws like the ACA in 2009 or the [bipartisan infrastructure bill] 2021 is difficult and tortuous, it takes time, ”said Martha McKenna, a Democratic strategist in Baltimore who served as a senior on the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee in 2010.

“For the ACA, once the actions and results came in, voters appreciated the improvement in their healthcare,” McKenna said. “Democrats ran in cycle-and-cycle healthcare after that policy was implemented. We need to deliver on Biden’s promises thoughtfully and quickly. It is complicated and frustrating, and the mission cannot be abandoned. “

The road to the Affordable Care Act culminated in March 2010, when Obama signed the bill, eight months before Republicans returned to the majority in the House by winning 63 seats filled by Democrats.

Republicans involved in the campaign that year said the ACA only helped their cause, and that gubernatorial elections that should have served as omens were neglected.

“The political environment was deteriorating rapidly for the Democrats. We expected a course correction, but the Democrats went ahead with their agenda ignoring the warning signs, “said Ken Spain, who led communications in the Republican National Congress Committee that year. “A year later, we had all the political publicity we needed.”

Some Democrats say this year’s losses should prompt their party to address issues Republicans have used to promising effect.

“I have been listening to the people of West Virginia. They are worried about inflation, they really have been for a long time, ”Manchin said. “We have to be aware of that.”

“Like it or not, voters are concerned about immigration, they are concerned about inflation, they are concerned about the economy and they are still concerned about how we will all live with COVID – we have to lean on that,” Steve said. Schale, a Democratic consultant in Florida. “It doesn’t mean we have to be Republicans, but it does mean we have to recognize that these are issues that concern people.”

The seemingly stalled negotiations in Washington, marked by endless and ultimately unsuccessful declarations of a breakthrough, have created a political environment as bad or worse than the one Democrats faced a dozen years ago.

“They want to feel like we’re on some kind of visible, predictable path to progress and they don’t feel it,” said Mark Nevins, a Philadelphia-based Democratic strategist. “It would be easy to dismiss 2021 as a Virginia problem, but it is not. Today’s environment is a national issue and Democrats around the world are facing headwinds because of it. “

Alexander Bolton contributed.

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