House Dems head into midterms without governing agenda, promise voters more of the same

House Democrats are promising voters a more-of-the-same agenda if the party manages to hold on to their narrow majority in the November midterm elections, saying they will keep working on climate change, gun control and protecting abortion access.

It’s a platform that risks criticism for looking backward more than forward, but it also reflects House Democrats’ pessimistic outlook for remaining in power.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to make sure we’re talking about what we have done and then we can talk about what we’re going to do next,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks, New York Democrat. 

Democrats are in a tough position this year, with Republicans needing a net gain of just five seats to flip the lower chamber in a midterm cycle that traditionally punishes the party that occupies the White House.

The GOP rolled out its legislative agenda last week that focused on fighting crime, inflation and illegal immigration.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy presented the plan as a contrast to what’s offered by Democrats, who he accused of having “no plan” ahead of the November elections.


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“If you’re like everybody else we hear, whether you can afford it, whether you feel safe, the challenge of your children getting left behind or a government that’s run amuck, who has a plan to change that course? We do. The Democrats have no plan for the problem they created,” said Mr. McCarthy, California Republican.

House Democrats’ campaign arm said their members are encouraged to make a more individual pitch, based on their district, which means they could be running on abortion in some places and infrastructure and economics in others.

But, when more than a dozen Democrats were pressed by The Washington Times to articulate an agenda for 2023, they said their pitch to voters is to showcase the legislative accomplishments they’ve made. They also promise to strengthen those legislative accomplishments and go further on key voter concerns like gun control and abortion rights.

“I would absolutely like to see us do some codification to Roe v. Wade, so we can give a lot of power to women,” said Rep. Al Green, Texas Democrat.

Rep. Lucy McBath, Georgia Democrat, said she wants to see more work done on curbing gun laws after Congress passed one of the most comprehensive gun control packages in decades earlier this year.

“Of course, we’re going to try and push for an assault weapons ban,” Ms. McBath said. “People around the country, families have been crying out for that policy agenda and that’s what they’re saying they want. Nothing changes, we’re going to try and expand on the work that we’ve already done.”

Democrats are striking a more optimistic tone in recent months, after major legislative victories, including the passage of a bill aimed at bolstering U.S. manufacturing of microprocessing chips to better compete with China.

President Biden has also enjoyed an uptick in his approval rating in recent months, though his approval rating is still underwater.

Earlier this month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Democrats have “absolutely every intention” of keeping their majority in the House.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries of New York cited roughly 10 million jobs created under the Biden administration, the drop in gas prices, and the effects of the Democrats’ tax-and-climate bill as reasons why the party has momentum heading toward November.

Mr. Jeffries also emphasized the need to highlight the differences between Democrats and Republicans, whom he dubbed as “extreme” and beholden to former President Donald Trump.

“They are extreme in every possible way, and we’re going to continue to make sure that that contrast is presented to the American people over the few weeks that we have remaining here in Washington D.C. and when we return back home to our districts throughout the nation,” Mr. Jeffries said last week. 

Republicans, meanwhile, dismissed Democrats’ energy and point to GOP gains in the last election despite predictions for a blue wave.

“It seems like when you get about two months away from an election, Democrats try and create what I call faux-mentum,” said GOP Whip Steve Scalise. “You saw two years ago, Nancy Pelosi was going to flip 15-20 more seats to the Democrats’ side, and they tried to create their faux-mentum on the left, and what ended up happening? We flipped 15 seats from Democrat to Republican.”

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