Despite a new CBS News poll showing growing concern about inflation and President Biden’s handling of the economy, Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries expressed optimism Sunday that his party could still hold on to its narrow majority in Congress in November’s midterm elections.
The New York lawmaker, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, told “Face the Nation” that the president’s early actions to fight the COVID-19 pandemic helped create millions of new jobs and “rescued the economy.” His assessment came shortly after the release of the CBS News/YouGov survey showing that nearly 70% of Americans say the economy is bad — including 52% of Democratic respondents.
Democrats are widely expected to lose seats in the midterms, with Republicans hoping to retake both the House and the Senate. Jeffries, on the other hand, said he is “very confident that we will be able to hold on to the majority.”
“President Biden has done a very good job under incredibly difficult circumstances,” he told “Face the Nation.” “I understand that the electorate, of course, is going to be unsettled, experiencing COVID fatigue, inflationary pressures, high gas prices, a war in Ukraine, a radical extreme Republican party that doesn’t appear to believe in democracy any longer.
“This is a tough moment for our country, but President Biden has been very decisive in his leadership, beginning with the American Rescue Plan… That’s a tremendous start. Of course there is more than needs to be done,” he said.
Sunday’s poll suggests voters’ perceptions of Mr. Biden’s effectiveness and competence are also low among young people and minorities. About two-thirds of adults under 30 years old, nearly half of Black Americans and about 60% of Hispanic Americans said the president is slow to react to important issues.
One issue that has long been on Mr. Biden’s agenda but still hasn’t yielded a breakthrough is police reform. The president has been looking at a possible executive order on police reform for several months.
Jeffries said he expects to see “some further decisive action from the administration” on that topic, but he defended his party’s strategy, saying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have also been “acting decisively.” He cited a recent vote to crack down on alleged price gouging by gas companies — a measure that passed the House with no Republican votes — and legislation tackling the rise in domestic terrorism and white supremacy following the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York.
Jeffries also slammed a plan by GOP Sen. Rick Scott that experts say would raise taxes by more than $1,000, on average, for the poorest 40% of Americans.
“We do have to crystallize the differences between what we are about and what Republicans are all about,” Jeffries said. “It is clear that Washington Republicans want to raise taxes on everyday Americans, on police officers, on firefighters, on nurses, on factory workers, on grocery store clerks, and we are trying to provide them with relief… Those are serious differences between the two parties and I think once the voters understand that dynamic, the choice will be as clear as a sunny day in San Diego.”
Scott’s plan would also require the reauthorization of Social Security and Medicare every five years. The Florida lawmaker leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a group charged with getting Republicans elected to the Senate. He also joined “Face the Nation” on Sunday and spoke about his plan.
“Well, first off, it’s Rick Scott’s plan. I believe we ought to have a plan for how we go forward,” Scott said.
“We have very low labor participation right now. I want people back to work,” he said. “And with regard to Medicare and Social Security, think about this: We have got to be honest with the American people and come up with solutions. Medicare goes bankrupt in four years, Social Security goes bankrupt in 12 years. We’re not talking about that. I want to fix those programs. I believe in those programs and people rely on those programs.”
Jeffries was also asked Sunday about New York’s newly approved congressional map. The redistricting is less favorable to his party than the one drawn by the Democratic-controlled legislature and thrown out by the state Supreme Court earlier this year.
“The process, unfortunately, was hijacked by the Court of Appeals. A bad process has now led to a bad result,” Jeffries said, adding that “lawyers are taking a close look” at the map and possible challenges.