How Biden and Democrats can stack up legislative wins before November

Democrats are increasingly at risk of losing control of Congress in the 2022 midterms. Public polls consistently find that Republicans have a solid lead in the generic vote for Congress and that a majority of voters disapprove of President Biden’s job performance.  

In light of Democrats’ declining ratings and their failed attempts at passing both the Build Back Better Agenda and voting rights legislation, the party needs to show voters that they can deliver.  

Positively, the president, vice president and cabinet members have been traveling across the country to sell last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill to the American people — a laudable effort that should undergird an effective strategy for Democrats to begin to regain their position.  

Looking back to this point in President Obama’s first term, the Obama-Biden administration was often criticized for not broadly selling the American Recovery Act to voters. This led to both a Republican rout in the 2010 midterms, followed by a decade of Democrats ceding ground to Republicans on economic issues.  

That being said, Biden and Democrats selling their accomplishments — namely, the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the American Rescue Plan — is only one piece of the broader strategy that the party should be undertaking.   

In order to protect against Republican insurgency in November, Democrats need to secure discreet legislative victories by coming together around a new, more practical domestic agenda that is focused on alleviating a few major problems facing everyday Americans.  

Put another way, the Democrats need to prove that they, the party with unified control of Washington, can and should govern.  

Fortunately, there are a set of effective and broadly popular policies — in the realms of job training and creation, energy independence, climate change and drug pricing — that Democrats can pursue to achieve this objective.  

First, an all-of-the-above energy strategy, which has significant bipartisan support, would help alleviate energy costs in the short term and protect American consumers from the types of supply shocks and price surcharges at the gas pump we are currently experiencing in the future.   

This week, moderate Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer (N.J.) proposed an all-of-the-above energy plan, which involves tapping into existing domestic oil wells, ramping up domestic oil production immediately, working with close allies to reduce America’s reliance on oil from bad actors including Russia, Iran and Venezuela, and increasing and maximizing our use of alternative energies, including wind and solar. 

Gottheimer’s proposal is both practically and politically viable. Democrats should work on bringing legislation like this to the floor of Congress as soon as possible, considering the financial strain of high gas prices that is currently weighing on Americans.  

Second, given the dramatic shifts in the workforce and labor market that occurred during the pandemic, Democrats should prioritize improving federal job training programs in public health, IT, manufacturing and clean energy, including nuclear energy.   

These programs have broad bipartisan support and will help close the skills gap, thus bringing our economy and workforce into the 21st century.  

Passing the JOBS Act — a bipartisan bill that would expand federal Pell Grant eligibility to certain high-quality job training programs — is a good starting point. If passed by the Senate, this law would help more workers afford the job training and credentials that are in demand as industries have changed during the pandemic.  

In addition, another fertile area where Democrats can secure a major victory is on drug pricing. Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that reducing healthcare costs, such as drug pricing, should be a top priority for Biden and the Democrats, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll.  

Further, more than 80 percent of Americans believe that prescription drug costs are unreasonable — and sadly, nearly one-third of Americans haven’t taken medications as prescribed in the last 12 months due to high costs, according to an October KFF poll.  

The importance of such a reform could not be clearer — that being said, it is critical to consider the way in which it is undertaken.   

Of all people, billionaire investor Mark Cuban recently started an online pharmacy that cuts out the middlemen in drug pricing — known as pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) — to make drugs more affordable.  

It seems simple that the entire pharmaceutical market should function in a similar way: Give consumers transparent information about their critical prescription drugs, continue to give them the freedom to follow treatments as prescribed without undercutting access and pass any and all savings directly to patients, never middlemen.  

Indeed, Democrats coming out in favor of rebates being passed directly to consumers would not just reduce drug prices for all Americans, but would also demonstrate to the most active voter base — American seniors — that the party can deliver in meaningful ways.  

Ultimately, these reforms are both practically and politically feasible and Democrats should begin pursuing them in earnest.  

The risks to the party of failing to deliver are too high, and the future control of both bodies of Congress could not be in greater jeopardy.  

Douglas E. Schoen is a political consultant who served as an adviser to former President Clinton and to the 2020 presidential campaign of Michael Bloomberg. He is the author of “The End of Democracy? Russia and China on the Rise and America in Retreat.”

Tags Barack Obama Build Back Better plan Climate change policy Democratic Party Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Joe Biden Joe Biden Josh Gottheimer Mark Cuban Michael Bloomberg Presidency of Joe Biden

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