Washington — Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia said Sunday that congressional Democrats "blew the timing" of passing the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and broader social policy and climate package, to the detriment of Democrat Terry McAuliffe in his failed race for the Virginia governor's mansion against Republican Glenn Youngkin.
"Bluntly, we blew it, and I'm not talking about progressives or moderates or the House or the Senate. The congressional Democrats have majorities in both houses, and the American public expects us to deliver," Kaine said. "If we had done both of these bills in early October, Terry McAuliffe would have had so much to sell: Relief is coming in terms of lowering childcare costs, pre-kindergarten. There's going to be infrastructure to hire people to fix our ports and our airports and improve our roads. Instead, with a narrow majority, a lot of people start to think, 'Let's see, I can hold out for the one thing I most want, or I can hold out to kick out this one thing I don't like.' And Democrats blew the timing."
McAuliffe, a former governor of Virginia who was seeking a second non-consecutive term, wasby roughly two points in a state President Biden won by 10 points in 2020. Youngkin became the first Republican to win statewide in Virginia since 2009, prompting a reckoning among Democrats as they look to maintain control of Congress in the 2022 midterm elections.
Kaine said Democrats should've passed the two pieces of legislation, which are central to Mr. Biden's domestic policy agenda, in early October and said he and fellow Virginia Senator Mark Warner, also a Democrat, were telling their colleagues, "Don't be the dithering and delaying party, be the doer party."
"Folks didn't wake up to it," he said. "They're waking up to it now."
The House did pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill late Friday, three days after the elections and more than two months after it. The House is poised to vote on the broader $1.75 trillion social spending plan by the end of November, but it faces an uphill battle to win approval by the Senate in its current form.
A revised framework of the package unveiled by Mr. Biden last month omitted 12 weeks of paid family leave to win support from moderate Democrat Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. But legislation released by the House this week included the policy, setting up a showdown between the two chambers over the legislation.
While Kaine said he supports paid family leave and noted some aspects of the $1.75 trillion plan are still being negotiated, he predicted the legislation will be for children what the Social Security Act of 1935 did for the senior citizens.
"Everybody who cares about paid child and family leave also cares about the child tax credit, they care about affordable child care, they care about pre-kindergarten, and in that bucket of issues that matters to families and children, without being able to predict that everything that everyone wants will be fully funded for as long as we want, that bucket of issues for families and kids is going to be so powerful," he said.
The Virginia senator expressed optimism that the sweeping social spending and climate measure will also land on Mr. Biden's desk, which would lay a strong foundation for Democrats and the president ahead of next year's midterms.
"If a president can get two legislative houses of his own party to deliver, the president suddenly becomes pretty popular," he said.
The two bills are "great for every ZIP code in this country," he said.
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