Sen. Chuck Schumer’s status as majority leader is on the line in the 2022 midterm elections.
Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
- Democrats are worried about losing in November and are looking for quick fixes.
- Putting money back into voters’ pockets by curbing inflation and gas prices is part of the strategy.
- It’s too little too late, one combative Republican said.
Congressional Democrats are facing a cocktail of political problems ahead of the midterm elections. Everything from inflation, high gas prices, frustration with COVID-containment policies, and pandemic fatigue could spur voters to put Republicans back into power.
With several members on the ballot in November trying to defend the party’s razor-thin majority, six Senate Democrats told Insider there’s still a path to victory if they can get some of their policy wishlists enacted before facing voters this fall.
One theme threaded throughout the interviews with the senators on Capitol Hill was quickly easing the pain voters are feeling as pandemic-driven supply chain problems jack up gas prices and grocery bills. Fixing inflation is key on their agenda and some of the lawmakers frame it as a battle against “corporate greed.”
“People are feeling this inflation in a real way, from gas to groceries to rent,” Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, who is running for reelection to a fourth term, said. “And I think we’ve got to try to work together to see how we can mitigate this.”
Quick fixes floating around Capitol Hill at the moment include a temporary gas tax holiday that would save people money while at the pump, and restoring the monthly child tax credit payments working families automatically received before that part of the COVID-relief bill expired in January.
Bennet said he strongly supports switching the child tax credit payments back on, estimating that his constituents were “on average, getting $450 a month to help deal with expenses.”
“That would make a big difference,” he added.
In addition to cosponsoring the gas tax holiday proposal, Sen. Raphael Warnock who is on the ballot in Georgia, wrote to President Joe Biden last week urging the administration to look into possible price-gouging by global shipping providers.
“This is corporations padding their pockets and rewarding their stockholders at the expense of ordinary people,” Warnock told Insider.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island said Republicans have repeatedly blocked efforts to rein in prescription drug prices. But he thinks there’s wiggle room on trimming one cost — that of the diabetes medicine insulin — that’s been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“I hope we might be able to do a targeted measure on insulin, since so many Americans have diabetes and those prices have been extremely, extremely high,” Whitehouse said.
Relief won’t happen though, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said, without some give from the GOP. “It’s frustrating that we can’t get Republican partners for key issues that will drive down costs,” he told Insider, adding that “consistent opposition” from Republicans clouds just about everything.
Democratic strategists have warned that the party will be annihilated in the November elections if they don’t start to pivot to an economic message that resonates with voters, and gives them hope.
Even though the Democratic Party has economic wins to brag about to voters — the numbers show the economy is improving, employers are hiring, and unemployment is down — much of the political narrative has been overshadowed by talks of the January 6 Capitol siege and former President Donald Trump’s myriad transgressions.
But despite numbers showing an improving economy, voters remain focused on their own personal finances, job prospects and pandemic fatigue, and Republicans will certainly be seizing on those concerns.
Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican of Kentucky, said Democrats are failing to see that Biden has alienated pandemic-weary voters.
“I think Democrats have no idea how fed up the public is with being bossed around and told they have to carry papers, mandates for this and that,” Paul, who Trump endorsed for reelection to a third term, told Insider at the US Capitol.
“And there’s going to be a huge sea change in 2022 because Democrats are tone deaf to the fact that Americans want to be left the hell alone,” Paul said.