Balance of power: Control of Congress up for grabs in midterm elections

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden’s record is on the ballot, even though he is not named. And no matter what Tuesday’s midterm elections bring, his presidency is set to undergo profound changes.

Publicly, Biden boasted end-to-end optimism, telling Democratic State Party officials on the eve of the election that “we’re going to surprise the living devil from the people.” Privately, though, White House aides are portraying contingencies, should Republicans take control of one or both chambers of Congress — a scenario that Biden said would make his life “more difficult.”

Whatever the outcome, the vote will help reshape the balance of Biden’s tenure after an ambitious first two years and re-arrange his White House priorities.

The president, who was making vote-out-the-vote calls to radio outlets targeted at the black community, planned to spend election night at the White House with advisers to watch the returns. White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said Biden will address the nation on Wednesday about the results, which at the time are certain to be incomplete.

The president last week appealed to Americans to “be patient” as the votes are counted and to avoid engaging in conspiracy theories, a message he could repeat on Wednesday about pending returns.

Biden, in his first two years, pushed through sweeping bills to address the coronavirus pandemic, rebuild the country’s infrastructure, address climate change and boost the country’s competitiveness over China – all with a congressional majority. with. Now, aides and aides say, their focus will be toward preserving those gains, enforcing larger pieces of legislation — perhaps during intense GOP oversight — maintaining effective governance in an even more charged environment, and propelling its way forward to the next president. Strengthening the position of the party.

Should Republicans gain control of Congress, Biden is gearing up to fight to keep the ally government funded and meet its financial obligations, maintain support for Ukraine, and protect its signature legislative achievements from repeal efforts. Huh. The Republican victory could also host GOP candidates, whom Biden has called for refusing to accept the results of the 2020 presidential race, limiting possible avenues of cooperation and highlighting new challenges to democracy before 2024. Branded as a threat.

The Biden administration has been preparing for months whether Republicans should take over one or both chambers for a potential flood of GOP investigations, devising legal and media strategies to address everything from the chaotic US military pullout from Afghanistan to the president’s son Hunter Biden. Everything can be checked till the business dealings of

If Republicans take power, Princeton University historian Julian Zelizer said history shows it would be very effective for Biden to “focus his extremism and turn his newfound power against them.”

White House aides and aides are closely monitoring calls for the right to investigate or even impeach Biden. While he has promised to cooperate on what he sees as legitimate oversight, he is eager to inflict a political toll on Republicans by putting the GOP on scrutiny rather than on issues most important to Americans’ lives. should be focused.

The potential change comes as Biden, 79, has reiterated his intention to run for re-election. He will need to make a final decision soon, perhaps preparing for a rematch against former President Donald Trump, who has teased his expected announcement for November 15.

A poor mid-term result does not preclude re-election of the president – ​​historically the ruling party favors winning another term. But Zelizer said that even presidents who disregard history and avoid major losses or keep their majority are forced to change course to balance their terms.

“What effective presidents do is defend what they’ve already done in priority,” he said. “And then comes election time, your record, even though it hasn’t risen since the midterms, looks good. What you don’t want is to destroy it, not be able to enforce it, and then in 2024 your opponent is going to say, ‘Look, what he did was very ineffective and didn’t work.’ “

In a silent admission of his narrower ambitions, Biden’s midterm message to voters has largely focused on promoting his achievements and warning of the consequences of a GOP takeover. Big elements of his 2020 agenda that fell on the cutting room floor during his two years of legislation — such as expanding free early childcare and two years of community college — are hardly included in his speeches.

The hints he’s made about what he expects to pass in the coming two years have been conditioned on the slim possibility that Democrats will expand their slim majority in Congress: a ban on assault weapons. , voting reform and legislation codifying abortion rights nationwide.

Pressed on Monday as to why Biden hasn’t done more to outline what he hopes to achieve in his next two years, Jean-Pierre said: “Why not just tell the country that we have What have you done? Why not just put it out there? that we have.”

Advisers to the president have emphasized the obstacles facing Democrats this year, as inflation coincides with historical trends that are counterproductive to the party in control of the White House. They say Biden’s agenda remains popular among voters and has been embraced, not abandoned, by candidates of his party – unlike in 2010, when Democrats decimated the Affordable Care Act, the Obama-era health law’s unpopularity. fled, and lost 63. House seats and six Senate seats.

Republicans under Trump lost 40 House seats but gained two Senate seats in 2018, and Democrats under Bill Clinton lost 52 House seats and eight Senate seats in 1994.

Biden aides are beginning to consider areas of potential bipartisan cooperation that could also pay dividends by 2024 Republicans block them, such as care for veterans and lowering the cost of insulin for all Americans. Democrats’ August health care and climate bill capped drug costs for seniors at $35 a month.

Cedric Richmond, a former Louisiana congressman and former Biden aide who is now a top adviser on the Democratic National Committee, said Biden would focus on areas of bipartisan cooperation in the second half of his first term.

“No matter what, he’s going to work hard to try to meet his goals,” Richmond said. He pointed to Biden’s ability to move through an infrastructure bill and a law that would improve veterans’ health care as areas where he brought Republicans together, so he’ll continue to do what he wants. doing, which is wagging his tail to get achievements.

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