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Disappointing election results may have lit a fire under Democrats


Disappointing results for Democrats in this week's elections, like losing the governor's race in Virginia, may have lit a fire under them. At least, President Biden hopes so. He said yesterday, voters want Democrats to, quote, "get things done."


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: 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.

KING: House Democrats want to pass legislation that commits resources to child care, cheaper drugs, better infrastructure and fighting climate change. And they say a vote is possible today.

NPR Congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell is on this one. Good morning, Kelsey.


KING: So House Democrats say the bill is done. What's in this version?

SNELL: Well, this version is very similar to previous versions that we've seen. As you said, it does have measures like making child care more affordable and easier to access, has more than $500 billion to address climate change and funding for universal pre-K and affordable housing, among a lot of other things in this bill. But this new version also includes four weeks of paid family and medical leave and a new, much higher cap on state and local tax deductions. It was from a deal that was put together kind of to allow more Democrats to come on board. There was also a deal to allow some negotiation on the cost of drugs for Medicare patients, including a $35 monthly cap on expenditures on insulin. You know, the paid leave and prescription drug provisions have been left out of earlier versions of this framework, but they have a lot of support among House Democrats.

KING: House Democrats - but would this pass in the Senate?

SNELL: Well, possibly not exactly this version - you know, Joe Manchin of West Virginia still has issues with the paid leave portion. He says he wants to take it out and deal with it on a bipartisan basis. And Senators Bernie Sanders and Bob Menendez have a very different way of dealing with state and local tax deduction, which many critics say is a tax cut that mostly helps the wealthy. Plus, there's a whole process of making sure the bill sticks to Senate rules. And most Democrats say they think other elements, like funding for immigration reforms, could be stripped out of the bill that way.

KING: How are Republicans characterizing their wins this week?

SNELL: Well, you know, I've heard some say that they feel vindicated. They say Democrats are pursuing spending that makes - that they expect will make inflation worse. And they say all of the fighting between Democrats and the lack of action on this bill gives Republican candidates plenty to run against. You know, either way, they see a compelling narrative that they hope will win back voters who fled the party in 2020. They also see a chance to really make culture wars a focus of this election. You know, the concept of critical race theory and parental control of education became central in the Virginia governor's race, despite the fact that teachers and school boards say that critical race theory isn't currently being taught in Virginia schools. But that kind of messaging really got people excited, Republicans say. And that's something Democrats are watching closely.

KING: NPR Congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell - thank you, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Noel King is a host of Morning Edition and Up First.
Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.