House

Pelosi: Biden has ‘tremendous mandate’ to push Democratic agenda

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday that a disappointing cycle for House Democrats should do nothing to hinder the party’s ambitious legislative agenda, pointing to voters’ historic support for Joe Biden — who appears on the cusp of the winning the White House — in claiming that Democrats will have greater leverage next year.

“President-elect Biden has a strong mandate to lead, and he’ll have a strong Democratic House with him,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol, predicting a Biden victory.

No networks have projected Biden as the winner, but he has leads in four critical states. If he won them all, he would end up with 306 electoral votes. 

Republicans have so far gained seats in the House and look likely to keep their majority in the Senate, though that will depend on who wins what are likely to be two runoff elections in Georgia.

They argue Pelosi will have to bow to those realities while pointing to divisions in Pelosi’s caucus that have been on public display.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the majority leader, suggested Friday that October’s employment numbers mean that Congress should enact a smaller coronavirus relief package than the Trump administration had previously backed. And Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said the election results indicate Pelosi will have to “give some ground” in those talks.

“Sure she does,” Blunt said, when asked if Pelosi will have to drop some of her demands in the emergency relief package. “And the vast majority of her members also think she has to give some ground here. The liberal agenda was rejected by voters.

“There was no mandate in this election.”

In the weeks leading up to the elections, Pelosi had been negotiating with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on another massive COVID-19 aid package, in the range of $2 trillion. Both sides have said they want to reach an agreement in the lame-duck session, and Pelosi on Friday urged the White House to return to the table.

But she also rejected the notion that the election results would force Democrats to accept a smaller package, leaning again on Biden’s vote tally, which is approaching 74 million. 

That is more votes than any candidate ever won in a presidential election, though the former vice president seems likely at best to equal Trump’s 2016 haul in the Electoral College.

“That isn’t anything that we should even be looking at,” Pelosi said of a slimmer bill. “I think Joe Biden has a big mandate — a bigger mandate than John F. Kennedy.”

Pelosi, who formally announced her run for Speaker on Thursday, promised to move quickly next year on a host of Democratic policy priorities, including efforts to reform the campaign finance system, expand health care access, confront climate change and move an enormous infrastructure bill.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said he’s hoping a shift in power in the White House will force McConnell to compromise on some of those issues — particular health care — even if Republicans hold on to power in the Senate.

“It’s certainly possible to work with them on a number of these health issues, … and now we have the upper hand because we have the presidency,” Pallone said. “So they’re going to have to come a lot closer to what we want.”

Still, Tuesday marked a dispiriting moment for Pelosi and congressional Democrats, who were eyeing big gains in the House and a takeover of the Senate. Instead, they saw Republicans defeat at least seven House Democratic incumbents, while Democrats, as of Friday morning, had failed to topple even a single GOP lawmaker seeking reelection.

In the aftermath, liberals and moderates in the caucus have traded accusations over who bears the blame, leaving Pelosi and other party leaders to defend their message and spending strategy heading into the polls.

Pelosi on Friday acknowledged that the results were disappointing, saying some Democrats in Trump districts simply faced “almost insurmountable [odds] with Trump on the ballot.”

But she dismissed the idea that the clashing wings of the caucus would pose a threat to the ultimate success of the Democrats’ legislative priorities, noting that some of the loudest critics of the party’s election strategy also won their races.

“I would say we have a healthy difference in opinion in our caucus,” Pelosi said, “but not in any way to be problematic in how we legislate.”

Tags 2020 election Coronavirus Joe Biden Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Roy Blunt Steven Mnuchin Stimulus

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