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Biden touts Democratic wins, talks of compromise with GOP

President’s unpopularity was not the expected drag on Democratic candidates

President Joe Biden said Democrats had lower losses in Tuesday's elections than pundits predicted.
President Joe Biden said Democrats had lower losses in Tuesday's elections than pundits predicted. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

One day after midterm elections that may have cost his party control of the House, President Joe Biden simultaneously touted Democratic wins and pledged to work with the GOP, vowing not to compromise on core elements of his agenda.

Biden’s remarks during a late afternoon news conference at the White House Wednesday were part olive branch and part victory lap, after a projected Republican surge failed to materialize.

“While the press and the pundits [were] predicting a giant red wave, it didn’t happen,” Biden said. “I knew you were somewhat miffed by my obsessive optimism but I felt … we were going to do fine. While any seat lost is painful, Democrats had a strong night.”

He noted that Democrats appear to be on track to lose fewer seats in the House than any Democratic president did in a midterm election in 40 years. He attributed it to a theme he invoked often in the campaign’s closing weeks, a warning that “MAGA Republicans” inflamed by former President Donald Trump were threatening democracy itself with false claims of election fraud. He also said the Supreme Court ruling ending a federal right to abortion was a factor.

“Voters spoke clearly about their concerns,” he said. “They sent a clear and unmistakable message that they want to preserve our democracy and protect the right to choose.”

More than 45 races remained uncalled by The Associated Press at 5 p.m. Wednesday, and while Republicans leaders predicted they would get at least the net gain of five seats to take control of the House, Biden said it was possible Democrats would hold on. In the Senate, unless uncalled races in Arizona and Nevada both go to one party, control will depend on the outcome of a Dec. 6 runoff in Georgia.

Biden said he is open to working with Republicans, including California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the likely speaker of the House in a GOP majority, though he said he had not dealt with him much and might be meeting with him later Wednesday.

“I think there is growing pressure on the part of the American people, expecting both parties and all elements of both parties to work out their substantive differences,” he said. “And not just ‘I’m not going to do that because it would benefit that party.'”

“I’m hopeful that Kevin and I can work out a modus operandi,” Biden said.

But he said there are certain issues he would not compromise on, including any attempt to enact a national abortion ban and efforts to undercut recently passed climate legislation.

“They’re not compromisable issues to me,’’ he said.

The Democratic president also gave a nod to the issue that animated Republican candidates this cycle: the perception of rising crime and inflation.

“I understand it’s been a really tough few years for so many people,’’ Biden said.

Biden was asked how he will respond to the expected flurry of investigations that Republican candidates have pledged to launch, including inquiries into his Cabinet members and his son, Hunter Biden. “The American public wants to move on and get things done for them,’’ Biden said. “I can’t control what they’re going to do.”

The president noted that he retains the veto pen to stop efforts by Republicans in Congress to overturn parts of his agenda that are already law, including climate and infrastructure investments.

The president was also asked about his reelection plans in the aftermath of Tuesday’s midterms, and he repeated that he still intends to seek another term in 2024, anticipating a final decision after Christmas.

He would not weigh in on whether he would prefer to face off against former President Donald Trump or Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who won reelection overwhelmingly on Tuesday.

“It’s going to be fun watching them take on each other,” Biden said.

Biden said the elections prove that American democracy is strong. “Our democracy has been tested in recent years, but with their votes, the American people have spoken and proven once again that democracy is who we are … the heart and soul of our democracy — the voters, the poll workers, the election officials — they did their job and they fulfilled their duty … that’s a testament to the American people.”

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