How a loss in Virginia, close race in New Jersey could affect Dem midterm plan

The off-year elections have turned two key states red. The results of Virginia’s gubernatorial election are looming large on Washington as President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats feel mounting pressure to find a path forward on infrastructure and social spending bills. Judy Woodruff discusses with congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins and White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The results of yesterday's elections have turned to states on the East Coast a lot less blue and left Democrats feeling a lot more blue.

    Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage of an outcome that has Republicans celebrating.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Cheers heard around the country, as Virginia elected its first GOP governor in more than over a decade.

    Glen Youngkin (R), Virginia Governor-Elect : My fellow Virginians.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    First-time candidate and former investment CEO Glenn Youngkin defeated former Virginia governor and former Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe.

    The governor-elect said his win was for freedom and families.

  • Glen Youngkin:

    Together, together, we will change the trajectory of this commonwealth.


  • Glen Youngkin:

    And, friends, we are going to start that transformation on day one.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Youngkin campaigned on more oversight for parents in public schools, as well as tax cuts, gun rights and a pledge to heal political divides.

    And while President Trump endorsed him, Youngkin avoided campaigning with or referencing him. With that formula, Republicans flipped Virginia just one year after President Biden won it by 10 points. While that is a historic Virginia trend, rejecting a new president's party, exit polls showed Republicans made particular gains with suburban women, like those we spoke with over a week ago who voted Youngkin and had real concerns about schools.

  • Dana Jackson, Virgina Voter:

    People that speak out for their kids are targeted and sort of afraid to do it now.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In all, it was the first statewide loss for Democrats since 2009. With the votes still close last night, McAuliffe waited to concede.

    That came this morning in a statement. He said — quote — "I am confident that the long-term path of Virginia is toward inclusion, openness and tolerance for all."

    Republicans also won down-ballot, with Winsome Sears, who touted her support of gun rights, becoming the first woman of color to win lieutenant governor in the state.

    Meanwhile, in New Jersey, more alarms for Democrats, with its gubernatorial election still too close to call. Democratic incumbent Governor Phil Murphy narrowly led Republican Jack Ciattarelli as mail-in ballots continued to be counted, this in a state with one million more registered Democrats than Republicans.

  • Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ):

    Well, we're going to have to wait a little while longer than we had hoped. We're going to wait for every vote to be counted, and that's how our democracy works.

    Jack Cittarelli (R), New Jersey Gubernatorial Candidate : We're going to lower property taxes. We're going to make this a better place to do business. We're going to downsize state government. We're going to support our state and local police.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Democrats could find bright spots in mayoral races across the country, including a number of historic votes. In New York City, Democratic former Police Chief Eric Adams became the second Black mayor elected.

    Eric Adams (D), New York City Mayor-Elect: We are so divided right now. And we are missing the beauty of our diversity. We have to end all of this division of who we are, where we go to worship, what do we wear. No. Today, we take off the intramural jersey and we put on one jersey, team New York.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Boston's new mayor will be City Councillor Michelle Wu, making history as the first woman and person of color in the 200 years the office has existed.

  • Michelle Wu, Boston Mayor-Elect :

    We're ready to be a Boston that doesn't push people out, but welcomes all who call our city home.


  • Michelle Wu:

    We're ready to be a Boston where all can afford to stay and to thrive.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In Cincinnati, Aftab Pureval will be that city's first Asian American mayor.

    And voters in Dearborn, Michigan, chose the city's first Arab-American mayor, Abdullah Hammoud. Leadership was on the ballot, but so were issues, as in Minneapolis, where residents voted to keep the city's police department and reject a new agency proposed after the murder of George Floyd sparked wide protests last summer.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The results of Virginia's gubernatorial election in particular are looming large in Washington today, as President Biden and congressional Democrats feel mounting pressure to find a path forward on passing his infrastructure and social spending bills.

    For more on this, Lisa joins me here, along with our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor.

    Hello to both of you.

    So, Yamiche, to you first.

    What is President Biden's message today after the news Democrats received last night?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, President Biden's message is that Democrats need to do better and that they need to pass legislation in order to do better in future elections.

    He said that Democrats really need to make sure that they find a solution for prescription drug prices. They need to give people tax breaks. They need to essentially pass the infrastructure plans that have been mulling through Congress, but have not yet been passed.

    Here's a bit of my exchange with the president from earlier today.

  • Question:

    What should Democrats possibly do differently to avoid similar losses in November, especially as Republicans are now successfully running on culture war issues and false claims about critical race theory?

  • President Joe Biden:

    I think we should produce for the American people.

    People need a little breathing room. They're overwhelmed. And what happened was — I think we have to just produce results for them to change their standard of living and give them a little more breathing room.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    So there is President Biden really centering the idea that passing legislation is the way to avoid midterm elections where Democrats suffer some of the losses that they saw last night.

    Now, I also push the president on this idea of Republicans being able to successfully run on false claims about Critical Race Theory, but also on claims about the economy. The president said the way forward is to speak the truth. He also said there's understandably a lot of — quote — "confusion" out there.

    And he says that people are confused about COVID, about the way forward with their children going back to school. The president, though, said that really the way to figure that out is to pass legislation to better people's lives, to give them tax breaks, to do all of the things he's been talking about in his Build Back Better agenda.

    The other thing to note is, the president said, "We will do just fine" — quote, unquote — talking about Democrats and the midterm elections. So here's the president who, even after last night and sustaining some of the losses, he still says that he feels confident that Democrats will be able to do better next time around.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And so, speaking of that legislation Yamiche is referencing and the president's talking about, Lisa, where does all that stand right now?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right, getting stuff done. Is it getting done?

    I can report tonight that, actually, the House is poised to now move forward this week, as I thought they would. The House Rules Committee is meeting right now. And that means we could have a vote on both Build Back Better and the infrastructure bill as soon as tomorrow. My reporting is, that's where House leadership is going, votes tomorrow on both.

    However, it's interesting, Judy. Everything you and Yamiche are talking about with the Virginia election is affecting sort of the idea of the atmosphere in Congress over when things happen.

    And I want to play the difference between someone like Senator Joe Manchin, a more moderate or conservative Democrat, vs. a progressive, Pramila Jayapal, how they see the results last night, and what they're saying that means for this agenda right now.

  • Sen. Joe Machin (D-WV):

    It's unbelievable to see what went on in Virginia, and then not just not just from the governor's race, but all the way down that ticket.

    People have concerns. People are concerned. They are very much so. And for us to go down the path that we have been going, and they were trying to accelerate it, and it's has been slowed down. I think that we need to take our time and do it right.

  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA):

    Every attack that I saw against Terry McAuliffe did not say, Congress hasn't passed the infrastructure bill. It had to do with education and parents. And I think what we have to do is, we have to get real relief to parents who are struggling, to families who are struggling.

    And that is the best case for why we have to pass both these bills, the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better bill, this week. And I think that's what I'm hearing from all my colleagues as well.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    So, Manchin, I think, is the outlier here. He wants to slow things down. But, honestly, everyone else is in the House and Senate, Democrats, seem to be wanting to speed things up when it comes to these two bills.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, in the Senate, you need 50 votes.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right. I think it's going to take a few weeks at least.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, last night, you were reporting on a deal on prescription drug prices. Tell us what else is not resolved in all this.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    There's so much happening right now.

    I want to take viewers through a few of the key points, things that we're watching very carefully that are unresolved and in discussion right now, first, paid leave. We reported on that. Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put in the House version four weeks of paid leave. That's a compromise from what House Democrats, progressives, had wanted initially. That is going to be in the House version.

    Immigration, there is a potential compromise there that's being talked about, about five years of what's been called parole for some undocumented immigrants. That means it would not be a path to citizenship. That is where the House is going right now. And then on state and local tax deductions, this is an issue especially in the Northeast, some moderate members had said they won't vote for anything unless there is more of a state and local tax deduction than there is currently.

    The deal would raise the cap from $10,000, which it is now, to $72, 500. All of these are things that we're going to talk a lot about more. But I want people to understand that this House bill, whatever is voted on this week, as we expect, is definitely not the final. This is sort of a first issue from House Democrats, a first idea.

    And then the Senate will respond. This will go back and forth. But this is getting the process moving. That's what House Democrats want to do more than anything.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, a matter of days or longer, weeks.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I think days for this House bill to pass, and then weeks before we get to a final sort of endgame here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right,

    And, finally, Yamiche, back to you. When the president went to Europe for the climate summit meetings, he was saying he hoped that at least one House would get this legislation passed. What is the White House doing to try to push this legislation?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, Judy, as you said, the president really, really wanted this to be passed, at least one of these bills, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, he wanted it to be passed while he was in Europe. He wanted it to actually be passed when he landed in Europe.

    That, of course, did not happen, even though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was pushing lawmakers and saying let's give the president a vote of confidence from Congress. When that did not happen, the White House continued to engage. I'm told by White House sources today that the president, as well as top White House aides, they're going to continue to engage with lawmakers.

    They're really trying to make the case that this is exactly what lawmakers, including critical senators, Senator Manchin, Senator Sinema, this is a bill that they should be able to get behind. This is a bill that they say does not add to the deficit. They also — reports show that they're adding things back that progressives wanted, including paid family leave, something that was very critical to people across this country, especially women of color, but also men as well who are going to be able to possibly be able to take care of someone, whether a sibling or a family member, if they need to be able to be on medical leave.

    Another thing to note is that the president had a message today for Democrats as it relates to these bills. It was five words: "Get it on my desk."

    Those were the last words that he spoke at his press conference. That tells you that the president is urgently trying to get his party on the same page, though it's anyone's guess in terms of whether or not the president will be able to bring this together. Of course, Lisa smartly is saying it could be weeks, maybe a few days for the House vote.

    But here at the White House, there's really this feeling that the president is trying to continue to be the closer in chief. He has not been able to get there yet. But the White House is watching all of this very closely.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The drama continues.

    Yamiche Alcindor at the White House, Lisa Desjardins following it on the Hill, thank you.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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