Biden chief of staff sees positives ahead after 'rough and tough' year


White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain on Sunday said Americans are tired after a “rough and tough” year and that voters “sent a message” to Democrats who suffered bruising losses on Election Day.

But he insisted that President Biden, buoyed by passage of a long-sought infrastructure bill, will be able to chalk up more wins and put economic pressures and pandemic doldrums behind him.

Mr. Klain, speaking to NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said Americans are upset about sluggish progress on those issues and he feels that frustration personally.

“But I think what the American people are going to see is we have put in place the strategies, the actions, to turn that around,” Mr. Klain said. “They are in a ‘show me, don’t tell me” mode. I think we are going to show them in the weeks and months ahead that we have made this progress on COVID. We have made this progress on the economy. We are past now, the infrastructure bill. We can start to get going on implementing that. I think that will pay off results.”

Mr. Biden’s top aide spoke after Democrats loss the governor’s mansion in Virginia and suffered through bruising elections elsewhere, including a closer-than-expected governor’s race in New Jersey.

Mr. Klain acknowledged that Election Day served as a wake-up call for Democrats.

“I do think the voters sent a message on Tuesday. They wanted to see more action in Washington. They wanted to see things move more quickly, and three days later, Congress responded, passing the president’s infrastructure bill,” he said. “I don’t think the election alone put it over the line. What put it over the line was President Biden starting back in April putting it before the country, working with Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to get it through the Senate in August, working with a broad coalition in the House to finally pass it.”

Mr. Biden’s trials aren’t over.

His approval ratings were battered by a messy Afghanistan exit and an ongoing struggle to wrangle the coronavirus and its delta variant.

And Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia are worried a nearly $2 trillion massive social-spending bill will exacerbate inflation as Americans see higher prices in the grocery aisle and at the gas pump.

Mr. Klain said he is confident goodies in the bill will appeal to the electorate and bring lawmakers in line.

“I think this bill will pass the House when the House comes back. I’m sure the Senate will make changes, that’s the way the legislative process works. But we are going to get a very strong version of this bill through the House, through the Senate, to the president’s desk and into law,” Mr. Klain said. “And again, it’s because the American people need some help with their basic expenses. One thing this bill does is it cuts the cost of childcare in half, in half for middle-class families. That’s one of the main pain points in their budget. So I think this bill is gaining momentum.”

The chief of staff also rejected the idea that Election Day was a bloodbath for Democrats. Phil Murphy’s narrow victory in New Jersey marked the first time Garden State Democrats got a governor reelected in over 40 years, while New York City stuck by Democrats by electing Eric Adams.

“We lost the mayorship in New York in 2009, the last time we had a new Democratic president,” Mr. Klain said. “We had a lot of great, exciting Democrats elected around the country. The first woman, the first person of color elected mayor of Boston. We had a Shontel Brown elected to the U.S. House in Ohio. So we definitely suffered some losses on Tuesday. No question about it. We have to learn from that. We have to do better from that. But I also think we had some wins on Tuesday. I think we can take some pride in that too.”

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