Biden addresses House Democrats concerned about political landscape

President Biden shakes hands with Nancy Pelosi.
President Biden greets House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before addressing the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference in Philadelphia.
(Tom Williams / Getty Images)
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President Biden told House Democrats on Friday that the party needs to better communicate its accomplishments to the American people, warning that Republican majorities in the next Congress would leave him with nothing but a veto pen.

“We have to continue to maintain our majority,” the president said, calling the midterms perhaps the most important off-year election in modern history. “We know the fundamental change that shifts if we lose the House and Senate. The only thing I’ll have then is a veto pen.”

Biden and Democrats have been struggling to find a message that will resonate with voters, and face long odds in retaining their slim majorities in Congress after November’s elections.


Not only does history favor the party not holding the presidency in midterm elections, but Biden’s approval ratings have plummeted, his legislative agenda has stalled, and inflation has skyrocketed to levels not seen in four decades.

Inflation rose 7.9% in the 12 months through February. It comes amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, which is roiling energy markets.

March 10, 2022

Republicans have spotted an opening and have spent recent months pounding Biden over soaring prices for gas and consumer goods, as well as cumbersome supply chain issues.

While the president has attributed a recent spike in gasoline prices to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Republican politicians continue to blame Biden. “These are not Putin gas prices,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) tweeted Friday. “They are President Biden gas prices.”

Acknowledging that higher prices are crimping family budgets, Biden said it wasn’t fair to blame his administration for inflation’s rise.

President Biden announces that the U.S. is suspending normal trade relations with Russia for its unprovoked war in Ukraine.

March 11, 2022

“I’m sick of this stuff,” Biden said, expressing frustration at GOP talking points. “We have to talk about it, because the American people think the reason for inflation is the government spending more money. Simply not true.”

Speaking on the anniversary of his signing of a $1.9-trillion pandemic-relief plan, however, Biden sought to put the last year’s difficulties behind him and encouraged Democrats to focus on their accomplishments. He said the COVID-19 relief measure was a hard-won success that they should tout to voters.


“Let’s be clear: We did it alone,” Biden said, leaning toward the microphone. “Without one single, solitary Republican vote.”

Turning to the bipartisan infrastructure law, the president acknowledged that Democrats got “some Republican friends to help” but noted that only 13 House Republicans voted for the legislation despite many in the party later touting its benefits on the campaign trail. Nineteen Republicans in the Senate backed the bill, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“Every trench dug, there’s a Republican standing there saying: ‘This is a great thing. Wonderful. We did it,’” Biden said. “Even Mitch McConnell, for God’s sake.”

Some Republican members of Congress have praised initiatives made possible by the infrastructure law they opposed. Political analysts say they are not likely to be the last.

Jan. 24, 2022

Biden said 4,000 infrastructure projects have begun since the law was passed but argued that the public is largely unaware of what’s happening, suggesting Democrats haven’t done a good job of messaging to voters.

“The American people just trying to stay above water don’t understand this,” he said. “You tell them what the American Recovery Act was, they look at you like, ‘What are you talking about?’ Understandably.”

Biden came to Philadelphia as the closer for House Democrats’ issues conference, what was scheduled to be a three-day retreat outside Washington, but was cut short by late votes in the House on Wednesday.


With the midterms less than eight months away, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who leads House Democrats’ campaign arm, told reporters Democrats are proud to stack up their record against Republicans.

The makeup of the next Congress will largely shape how much Biden is able to accomplish in the White House in the final two years of his first term. With very slim majorities, several Democratic priorities have already stalled in the Senate, including the president’s climate and social spending package known as “Build Back Better.”