- Democrats maintained a Senate majority in a surprise midterms win.
- In addition to abortion rights and fair elections, Democrats appealed to voters on their plans for the economy.
- That involves taxing corporations, approving Biden’s spending, and lowering healthcare costs.
Democrats will retain Senate control for at least the next two years, in a surprising midterms win.
“Tuesday was a good day for America and a good day for democracy—and a strong night for Democrats,” President Joe Biden said on Twitter this weekend, adding that Democrats lost fewer House seats this year than during any Democratic president’s first midterm election for four decades.
The House is still too close to call, and in the event of a Republican takeover, a blue Senate will have limited power. They would be able to confirm Biden’s judicial and executive branch nominees but not pass significant new legislation on partisan lines. Still, Democrats have heralded the victory as voters’ rejection of far-right extremism, and their desire to see abortion rights and fair elections safeguarded.
Those may be the big takeaways, but Democrats locking down the Senate — and likely only conceding a slim majority to Republicans in the House — also indicate that voters favor Democrats’ plan to rein in a tumultuous economy.
That’s after early polling showed the opposite. Ahead of Election Day, polls showed Americans were more concerned about the economy and inflation than any other issue, and that they trusted Republicans more to fix it. That’s something few economists saw as likely, however, and it looks like Democrats’ plan for the economy in coming years gave them at least a slight edge necessary to pull off upset wins. Marginal victories in Nevada and Washington, for instance, were accomplished by candidates in sync with Biden’s plan to lower costs for Americans.
But voters are likely not just looking for representatives who yield to the party line — several Democrats pulling off upset wins emphasized clear plans on the campaign trail to tackle inflation and high cost-of-living. Below are three major ones.
Supporting Biden’s spending, such as the IRA and a restored Child Tax Credit
Republicans on the campaign trail blamed Biden’s spending for the country’s inflation problems, arguing that the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan has been one of the major instigators. Experts say that if it was, the impact wasn’t significant. Still, the GOP similarly united against Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.
But public favor for the legislation was solid out of the gate, with a Reuters/Ipsos poll from August showing broad support for individual measures of the Inflation Reduction Act, even if Americans were divided on the package as a whole.
And voters came out to support politicians in favor of it. It might be because redistributions like tax credits can, in theory, provide immediate relief to families against higher prices.
Nevada’s Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, whose win just secured the Democrats’ Senate’s majority by one seat, was a vocal proponent of the IRA, for instance. Her Republican rival Adam Laxalt was staunchly opposed to it, and tied Cortez Masto to it repeatedly.
John Fetterman, the Democrat who beat out Mehmet Oz for the Pennsylvania Senate seat, and Mark Kelly, the Democrat who held onto his own in Arizona, similarly endorsed Biden’s IRA and American Rescue Plan, with Kelly securing some IRA money for climate projects in his region.
A Fetterman spokesperson said that Fetterman would support Biden’s stimulus initiatives in the future, for instance, such as a restored enhanced child tax credit. Worth up to $3,600, it was originally part of the American Rescue Plan. The credit expired at the beginning of this year, but had briefly caused a significant drop in child poverty.
Tackling corporate profits as an inflation-fighting measure
Several of the Democrats who achieved close wins slammed corporations for enjoying record profits over the last few years without easing the burden for consumers amid record inflation.
Cortez Masto criticized oil and gas companies for “prioritizing payouts to shareholders rather than using their record profits to help lower prices and responsibly ramp up domestic production” on her campaign website.
Fetterman and Kelly emphasized the same point in the weeks leading up to the elections.
“In the Senate, I will fight for a fair tax code that ensures the wealthiest Americans and corporations don’t get away with scamming the system, and finally pay their fair share,” Fetterman promised on his own campaign site. “We can and must build an economy that works for all of us.”
A tax on profits could, in theory, induce companies to lower prices and invest more of their earnings back into the companies with expenditures like wages.
Making healthcare more affordable by expanding Medicare and lowering drug costs
Democrats spent the back half of their midterms pitching themselves as strongholds for entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, and framing Republicans as a threat.
That emphasis paid off: Fetterman, for instance, wants to expand Medicare, while Oz has only said he only supports the expansion of Medicare Advantage, which are plans offered by private companies that contract with Medicare.
“We have finally passed a law to allow Medicare to negotiate certain drug prices and cap annual prescription drug costs, but we cannot stop there — we must allow for the importation of lower priced prescription drugs from other countries and limit drug costs for all Americans,” Fetterman says on his website.
While Medicare’s ability to negotiate drug prices could be the most direct way to lower costs for Americans, it is a fairly small program and doesn’t fully kick in for four years.
Laxalt didn’t specifically say that he wanted to reduce or cut Medicare, but said that he intended to “look for ways to cut down costs,” in comparison to Cortez Masto, who has advocated for multiple types of Medicare expansion.
In addition to Medicare, Democrats like Fetterman have also called for allowing lower-priced drugs to be imported to the US, in addition to limiting drug price costs overall.
“I will push to bring down the cost of prescription drugs by continuing to take on the pharmaceutical companies that jack up prices,” he told a local Fox News affiliate.