President Biden looked to rally his troops Thursday at the Democratic National Committee’s winter meeting in Washington, saying the party has a lot to be “proud of” heading into the midterm elections this fall.
Mr. Biden said Democrats are confronting the nation’s biggest challenges despite Republicans throwing up roadblocks at nearly every turn.
“We have a record, a record to be proud of - an agenda that addresses the biggest concerns here in America and in people’s lives,” Mr. Biden said. “Now what we have to do is sell it with confidence, clarity, conviction and repetition.”
The Democratic National Committee convened its meeting in Washington hours after the Labor Department reported the Consumer Price Index, or inflation rate, came in at 7.9% over the 12-month period that ended in February, marking the sharpest spike since 1982.
The gathering also played out weeks into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is testing Mr. Biden’s standing on the global stage.
They are stark reminders of the challenges facing Mr. Biden and congressional Democrats as they scramble to convince voters ahead of the November midterm election they deserve to keep calling the shots in the House and the Senate.
Mr. Biden said his approach to the war in Ukraine has isolated Russian President Vladimir Putin, strengthened NATO and helped to unify the international community.
He said the “crisis is another indication of why we need to get off a dependency on fossil fuels.”
On the domestic front, Mr. Biden said the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan lifted the nation out of a crisis, and the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill will transform lives.
He also touted the 6.5 million jobs that were created on his watch last year, suggesting it shows the economy is recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.
“I feel so good about what we are doing,” Mr. Biden said. “I believe we have a record to be incredibly proud of.”
Mr. Biden is scheduled to address House Democrats on Friday at their retreat in Philadelphia, where he is expected to try again to boost the spirits of Democrats as they brace for what are shaping up to be tough midterm elections this fall.
Democratic leaders are slated to celebrate the first anniversary of the passage of the American Rescue Plan that sent relief checks to most Americans, extended a $300 per week unemployment insurance supplement, expanded the child tax credit and directed more money toward vaccine distribution.
On Thursday, Mr. Biden implored Democrats to stay engaged, arguing that Republicans don’t stand for anything.
Mr. Biden said Democrats can help families deal with the rising costs of inflation by passing legislation that reduces the costs of health care, prescription drugs, and child care.
And he reiterated his vow to raise taxes on corporations and people who make over $400,000 a year.
“We are going to change this country,” Mr. Biden said. “We are going to improve the lives of millions of Americans. We will meet the great challenge of our time: voting rights, climate crisis, gun violence, criminal justice, immigration, and so much more.”
“It is literally within our power to do this,” he said.
Democrats this fall are defending the narrowest of majorities in the 50-50 Senate, where Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tie-breaking vote, and an also fragile 222-111 edge in the House.
The president’s party has lost House seats in 17 of 19 mid-term elections since World War II.
A possible bad omen for Democrats is Mr. Biden’s approval rating has been underwater since the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. military troops from Afghanistan.
Concerns over inflation and rising gas prices and frustration related to the coronavirus also have often overshadowed some of the positive economic news on his watch.
Democrats and party activists, meanwhile, were crestfallen after Mr. Biden’s signature $1.75 trillion social safety net bill - known as Build Back Better - flamed out in the face of opposition from Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and every Republican in the chamber. A “voting rights” push also petered out.
Still, there have been glimmers of hope for Democrats. Polls show Mr. Biden’s approval rating has ticked up since his State of the Union address, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“Coming out of the State of the Union we are in the strongest position we have been in in months,” Mr. Biden said.
Warming up the crowd for Mr. Biden, DNC Chair Jaime Harrison said Democrats the election offers voters a stark choice between a Republican Party that “wants to make you poor” and a Democratic Party that “wants to solve the problems that keep folks up at night.”
“These next eight months my friends, our job is to be relentless, relentless in getting that message out to the American people,” Mr. Harrison said. “We have to make sure every American knows we have a plan to get stuff done and a track record to prove we can do it.”