Joan E Greve
Thu, 2 March 2023 at 2:18 am GMT
Joe Biden delivered a rallying cry to fellow Democrats on Wednesday, offering a glimpse of the president’s likely re-election message as he prepares to officially announce his plans for 2024.
Speaking at House Democrats’ annual issues conference in Baltimore, Maryland, Biden celebrated Democrats’ legislative accomplishments over his first two years in office but told his allies that they still have more work to do.
“As much as we’ve done, we have a lot of unfinished business as well to finish the job that needs to be done,” Biden said.
Biden’s remarks came as the 2024 presidential election has already gotten under way, after Donald Trump announced in November that he would attempt to recapture the White House next year. Biden is widely expected to announce his own re-election campaign in the coming months, but he declined to make those plans official on Wednesday, even as he nodded at the need to build on Democrats’ “historic progress” since he took office.
“Our plan is working. It’s growing the economy. It’s reducing the deficit. It’s fiscally responsible. But we’ve got more to do,” Biden said. “We’ve just got to keep going.”
Biden specified a number of policies that he would like to see implemented, including banning assault weapons and protecting abortion access at the federal level. But House Democrats will face significant challenges in implementing Biden’s vision over the next two years, now that Republicans control the lower chamber.
As they kicked off their annual conference on Wednesday, Democrats expressed confidence in their ability to regain the House majority next year. Noting that the theme of this year’s conference is “people over politics”, House Democratic leaders credited their economic agenda with helping the party avoid widespread losses in the midterm elections last year.
“We had unexpected results last November because we put people over politics and explained time and time again exactly what we were doing,” said Congressman Jim Clyburn, the assistant House minority leader. “We are going to further that.”
Although Democrats praised the steps they have taken to help American families, Republicans continued to attack the president’s party over high inflation and immigration policy.
“House Democrats rubberstamped Biden’s failed agenda every step of the way, yet they refuse to take responsibility for the pain and suffering they’ve brought to American families,” Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, said in a statement.
The extreme Maga Republicans are in control right now of the House of Representatives, and that’s a bad thing for the American people
With the victory of Jennifer McClellan in Virginia’s special congressional election last week, Democrats now hold 213 House seats. The party will need to flip five seats next year to regain their majority and make Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, the new House Democratic leader, the next speaker of the chamber.
“Democrats are united in standing up for the American people,” said Suzan DelBene, the new chair of the House Democrats’ campaign arm. “We know, to make sure that we can continue to not just talk about the future of our country but actually implement the policies that make a difference, that we need to take back that gavel.”
The Democratic leaders’ tone marked quite a shift from last year’s conference, which was marked by disappointment and frustration among party members after the demise of Biden’s build back better act. The bill stalled in the Senate due to opposition from Joe Manchin, the centrist Democratic senator from West Virginia, sparking fierce criticism from his progressive colleagues.
Downplaying any divisions within the party, the House Democratic caucus chair, Pete Aguilar, said on Wednesday: “We believe that our common values are more important than any disagreements we might have.”
Democrats instead focused on contrasting themselves with the “extreme” Republicans who have embraced Trump’s “make America great again” (Maga) agenda. Jeffries specifically criticised those Republicans for refusing to support an increase of the US debt ceiling, raising the risk of a default that could have catastrophic consequences on the US economy. Attacking speaker Kevin McCarthy for refusing to break with the “extreme” members of his conference, Jeffries said Republicans were “willing to put a gun to the head of the American people”.
“The extreme Maga Republicans are in control right now of the United States House of Representatives, and that’s a bad thing for the American people,” Jeffries said.
As Biden rallied with Democrats in Baltimore, many Republicans gathered about 50 miles away for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Trump is scheduled to address the conference on Saturday, although several of his likely Republican primary opponents, including the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, plan to skip the event.
With Trump still leading in Republican primary polling and Biden taking steps to announce his re-election campaign, the week may offer a preview of the 2024 general election.