President Joe Biden will meet with House Democrats in Baltimore on Wednesday as they work to develop a messaging strategy that will help them keep the White House and flip the five seats needed to win back the House in 2024.
Given the divided government, there is very little chance that Congress will pass meaningful legislation over the next two years.
So a big piece of the party’s messaging puzzle will focus on implementing the legislative successes of the first two years of the Biden presidency: a massive infrastructure package, the most important gun reform bill in a generation, funding to boost national manufacturing of computer chips and a landmark climate and health law.
«Implementation» is not the kind of rallying cry that can get voters excited ahead of the 2024 election. The challenge for Biden and congressional Democrats is to persuade Americans that the new laws will make a meaningful difference to their daily life.
“This is about the Democrats meeting the American people when we talk about implementation,” Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Col., who leads the Democrats’ policy and messaging operation, said in an interview. “What do we mean? We mean lowering costs for seniors, we mean bridges and highways being rebuilt across the country for the first time in 60 to 70 years.
“So for me, that’s what the message is focused on. It’s delivering to the American people, and a big part of that is implementing these laws.»
During the three-day retreat on issues at a hotel in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, House Democrats will also hear from Vice Speaker Kamala Harris and senior administration officials, including Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra , Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan and Biden’s New Infrastructure Czar Mitch Landrieu.
Wes Moore, the new Democratic governor of Maryland and a rising star in the party, will also address the Democrats.
The next day, Biden will head to his old turf, the Capitol, to deliver his message to Senate Democrats.
‘finish the job’
The president’s pair of meetings come as his attention turns increasingly to the re-election campaign he prepares to launch. survey programs that few Americans know of or are particularly impressed by Biden’s legislative accomplishments to date.
He wants to change that.
At a White House event Monday to celebrate Black History Month, Biden told the many guests in attendance that «even in their communities, they don’t know what we’ve done.»
«So we have to talk about it,» he continued. «Spread the word. Stand up for our progress. Finish the job.»
That’s a message he’s likely to deliver at the Baltimore retreat, as he explains his differences with Republicans who refuse to raise the debt ceiling without billions in budget cuts.
A White House official said the president will use the appearance in Baltimore to «talk to Democrats in Congress about how to build on the progress they’ve made in making the economy work from the bottom up and the middle out, as well as combat the top-down policies of the Republicans.” that hurt American workers.”
“He will thank you for the strength of your unified group on both key priorities,” the official continued. «The president will discuss how to continue to bring jobs to America at historic rates, continue to reduce costs like prescription drugs and energy, and further reduce the deficit by making the special interests of the wealthy pay their fair share.»
Echoing the White House, Democratic caucus vice chair Ted Lieu, D-Calif., said the party will show voters that Democrats will «stop stupid things from happening.»
“We need to make sure that the debt limit is increased so that we don’t default on our debts. We have to make sure they don’t pass a national abortion ban,” said Lieu, who organized the retreat with Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar, D-Calif.
First, though, the Democrats need to get on the same page. House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries recently appointed Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., to lead a new group, the Regional Leadership Council, to ensure top Biden officials brief Democratic lawmakers when they visit their districts. or states to announce new infrastructure projects or award federal grants.
Democrats in Congress have been frustrated by missed opportunities when some cabinet members traveled to swing states without telling local lawmakers.
20,000 projects financed
Major highway, port and public transport projects are slow to complete. The $1 trillion infrastructure bill that Biden signed into law in 2021 will not be fully implemented until long after he ends his presidency. Still, White House officials are confident that Americans will see improvements before the 2024 presidential election. Signs are being put up to remind people that the money being spent on new highway and bridge projects under construction came from the Biden administration.
Landrieu, the former New Orleans mayor who is now a senior White House adviser coordinating the infrastructure plan, said 20,000 projects have already been funded and «there are projects coming up as we speak.»
Americans, he said, “are not going around saying, ‘I’m so happy the president turned that piece of concrete.’ But when all of a sudden the street is better or you’re getting to work faster, or you have high speed internet, or you have clean water, you’re like, ‘Wow, that Biden did pretty good!'»
Biden hasn’t officially announced his candidacy, but he acts and sounds like he wants a second term. His wife, Jill Biden, has made it clear that she wants him to run. When she was asked in a recent interview with the Associated Press if her husband would run again, she said: «How many times does he have to say it for you to believe it?»