Biden reacts to off-year electoral wipeout, urges swift passage of Democrats’ agenda

"I do know that people want us to get things done. They want us to get things done. And that's why I'm continuing to push very hard for the Democratic Party to move along and pass my infrastructure bill and my Build Back Better bill," Mr. Biden told reporters at the White House. "People are upset and uncertain about a lot of things -- from COVID, to school, to jobs, to a whole range of things, and the cost of a gallon of gasoline."

U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday reacted to his party’s governorship election loss in Virginia and elsewhere, insisting that now is the time to swiftly pass the Democrats agenda.

“I do know that people want us to get things done. They want us to get things done. And that’s why I’m continuing to push very hard for the Democratic Party to move along and pass my infrastructure bill and my Build Back Better bill,” Mr. Biden told reporters at the White House. “People are upset and uncertain about a lot of things — from COVID, to school, to jobs, to a whole range of things, and the cost of a gallon of gasoline.”
 
He said if he is able to sign into law his “Build Back Better initiative, I’m in a position where you’re going to see a lot of those things ameliorated quickly and swiftly.  And so that has to be done.”

“Well, I think we should produce for the American people.  Look, one of the things that is important to understand: If — if they pass my legislation, we’re going to be able to reduce the price — people are going to see a reduction in the price of the drugs they — they have to get because Medicare will be able to negotiate and lower the price of drugs,” he said. “If they pass my legislation, you’re going to see that nobody — and some of you who have children in daycare or children in childcare, you’re paying up to $14,000 a year if you live here.  You will never have to pay that much money if you live in Washington, or wherever you live.  No more than 17 perc- — 7 percent of your income.  They’re going to see that, you know, they’ll get tax breaks — I mean, genuine tax breaks.”

Below is an exchange Biden had with reporters on Wednesday following his remarks on the Authorization of the COVID-19 Vaccine for Children Ages 5 to 11

 
And I’ll take a few questions.
 
Q    Mr. President, on the outcome on Virginia —
 
Q    Mr. President, a quick one —
 
THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll start all the way at the end.
 
Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Appreciate it.
 
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you’re not all the way at the end, but that’s okay.  You’re up.  (Laughter.)
 
Q    As leader of the Democratic Party, how much responsibility do you take for the dismal results in Virginia and beyond last night?
 
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, look, yesterday reminded me of — that one of the scared rights we have is to be able to go out and cast our votes.  And remember that we all have an obligation to accept the legitimacy of these elections. 
 
I was talking to Terry to congratulate him today.  He got 600,000 more votes than any Democrat ever has gotten.  We brought out every Democrat about there was.  More votes than ever has been cast for a Democratic incumbent — I mean, not incumbent — a Democrat running for governor.  And no governor in Virginia has ever won when he is of the same — where he or she is the same party as the sitting President.
 
What I do know is — I do know that people want us to get things done.  They want us to get things done.  And that’s why I’m continuing to push very hard for the Democratic Party to move along and pass my infrastructure bill and my Build Back Better bill. 
 
I think if we — look, think about what we — what we’re talking about here.  People are upset and uncertain about a lot of things — from COVID, to school, to jobs, to a whole range of things, and the cost of a gallon of gasoline. 
 
And so, if I’m able to pass — sign into law my Build Back Better initiative, I’m in a position where you’re going to see a lot of those things ameliorated quickly and swiftly.  And so that has to be done.
 
Q    Mr. President — Mr. President, given what you’ve said, do you take some responsibility?  And do you think that Terry McAuliffe would have won if your agenda had passed before Election Day?
 
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think we should have — it should have passed before Election Day.  But I’m not sure that I would be able to have changed the number of very conservative folks who turned out in the red districts who were Trump voters.  But maybe.  Maybe.
 
Q    You won the state by 10 points, Mr. President. 
 
THE PRESIDENT:  No, I — I know we did.  But I — we also — I was running against Donald Trump.
 
Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I have a —
 
Q    Mr. President —
 
Q    What should Democrats possibly do differently to avoid similar losses in November, especially as Republicans are now successfully running on culture-war issues and false claims about critical race theory?
 
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think we should produce for the American people.  Look, one of the things that is important to understand: If — if they pass my legislation, we’re going to be able to reduce the price — people are going to see a reduction in the price of the drugs they — they have to get because Medicare will be able to negotiate and lower the price of drugs. 
 
If they pass my legislation, you’re going to see that nobody — and some of you who have children in daycare or children in childcare, you’re paying up to $14,000 a year if you live here.  You will never have to pay that much money if you live in Washington, or wherever you live.  No more than 17 perc- — 7 percent of your income.  They’re going to see that, you know, they’ll get tax breaks — I mean, genuine tax breaks. 
 
[A cellphone rings.] 
If that’s Trump, then tell him I’m busy.  (Laughter.)
 
Q    But, Mr. President —
 
THE PRESIDENT:  That was bad — bad joke.
 
But anyway, but the — but the point is that, you know, we have to move and make it clear that what we’ve done is increasing their —
 
Look, people — people need a little breathing room.  They’re overwhelmed.  And what happened was — I think we have to just produce results for them to change their standard of living and give them a little more breathing room.
 
Q    My question is —
 
Q    Mr. President —
 
Q    Can you just — what’s your message, though, for Democratic voters, especially Black voters who see Republicans running on race, education — lying about critical race theory — and they’re worried that Democrats don’t have an effective way to push back on that?
 
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that the whole answer is just to speak the truth, lay out where we are. 
 
Look, I’m convinced that if you look at everything from my view on criminal justice system, to my view on equal opportunity, to my view on economic issues, and all the things that I have and what I’ve been pushing in legislation — each of the elements are overwhelmingly popular.  We have to speak to them though.  We have to speak them and explain them. 
 
Look, I just think people are at a point — and it’s understandable — where there’s a whole lot of confusion.  Everything from, “Are you going to ever get COVID under control?”; to “Are my kids going to be in school?  Are they going to be able to stay in school?”; to “Whether or not I’m going to get a tax break that allows me to be able to pay for the needs of my kids and my family?” 
 
And they’re all things that we’re — that we’re going to — that I’m running on — that we’ll run on.  And I think we’ll do fine. 
 
Q    Mr. President, right here.  Right here, Mr. President.  Mr. President —
 
THE PRESIDENT:  This ought to be good.
 
Q    I think so, too. 
 
About the way forward, Mr. President: As you were leaving for your overseas trip, there were reports that were surfacing that your administration is planning to pay illegal immigrants who are separated from their families at the border up to $450,000 each, possibly a million dollars per family.  Do you think that that might incentivize more people to come over illegally?
 
THE PRESIDENT:  If you guys keep sending that garbage out, yeah.  But it’s not true. 
 
Q    So, this is a garbage report?
 
THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah. 
 
Q    Okay.  So, you —
 
THE PRESIDENT:  Four hundred and fifty — four hundred and fifty dollars per person.  Is that what you’re saying? 
 
Q    That was separated from a family member at the border under the last administration.
 
THE PRESIDENT:  That’s not going to happen.
 
Q    Okay.  And then just a follow-up, because you mentioned Trump a couple times.  When you went to try to help Terry McAuliffe in — a couple weeks ago, before you left, you mentioned Trump 24 times.  Do you still think that voters really want to hear you talking about Trump more than the issues affecting them every day?
 
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the reason I mentioned Trump — I didn’t count the times — is because the issues he supports are affecting their lives every day and they’re a negative impact on their lives, in my view.
 
Thank you all very much.
 
4:22 P.M. EDT

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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