The 2022 midterms are right around the corner. And this election will decide who controls Congress over the next two years. So ahead of the midterms, we asked Skimm’rs how they’re feeling about the direction of the country. Their response? They’re overwhelmingly (think: 85%) dissatisfied. Plus, more than 80% told us they think things have gotten worse for women.
With the Nov. 8 midterm elections looming, our audience had a lot of questions about the future of the federal government — and the country overall. So we sent them to President Joe Biden, to get more info on the issues that are most important to Skimm’rs ahead of Election Day. Here’s what he had to say…
How are you and the Democratic Party going to protect my reproductive freedom and access to reproductive health care? — Maranda
“I know people across the country are angry and concerned with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, which guaranteed the fundamental right to choose. They should be and so am I. A woman’s right to choose was settled law for decades. I understand the anger and worry that the Republican Party believes that politicians should be involved in health decisions between a woman and her doctor. It is alarming. We are now on a dangerous path that places politicians at the center of women’s private health care decisions and, in some states, criminalizes doctors.
“Since the Court’s decision, Republicans on the state level have continued their assault on women’s health by enacting extreme bans on abortion — even without an exception for rape and incest. But Republicans aren’t stopping there. They will pass a federal ban on abortions if they take over Congress. We can’t let that happen.
“You have the power to stop this extremism by voting against Republicans and voting for Democrats to keep control of the House of Representatives and expand our majority in the Senate. With a few more votes in Congress, we can codify Roe and protect your reproductive rights and health.”
How are you holding larger corporations accountable for CO2 emissions? What will your administration do to address this issue and press harder on them to make a change? — Veronica
“America needs to lead on climate change. We can’t continue with these unprecedented storms, wildfires and droughts that are endangering so many of our fellow Americans. This is why my administration set bold goals to reach a net-zero emissions economy by 2050 and cut our emissions in half by 2030. We passed the bipartisan infrastructure law and Inflation Reduction Act — [which] invest hundreds of billions in addressing climate change. These new laws will not only reduce CO2 emissions, but also create good-paying jobs, lower costs for families, modernize our infrastructure, and address historical environmental injustices that have harmed communities across the country.
“My administration is also standing up to big polluters and wealthy corporations to hold them accountable and make them pay for harming our environment. We set up a new office at the Department of Justice to focus on environmental justice and pollution that has poisoned the air and water in communities. We have a lot of work ahead of us but thanks to these new laws, we have an opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions and build a clean energy economy.”
As a veteran teacher of 22 years, I have concerns around my profession and safety. What plans does the federal government have for supporting current public education, retaining good teachers, and recruiting future teachers and leaders? — LaRissa
“I’ve heard it from teachers across the country. I heard it from [first lady] Jill [Biden] after she taught her own classes for a time over Zoom. I understand the toll COVID has had — not just on our students, but on our nation’s educators and our school communities as a whole. I hear it in the stories Jill shared after teaching on zoom. That’s why my administration prioritized putting educators at the front of the line for COVID vaccines, so we could safely get our schools back open and let teachers do what they do best – teach in classrooms. Through the American Rescue Plan, we also provided $130 billion to help our schools safely reopen, stay open, and to help our students recover. We’ve encouraged states and districts to use billions of those funds towards teachers’ and students’ mental health and to support students’ learning, so we support you as you support your students.
“The current teacher shortage did not start with the pandemic — it exacerbated it. We must respect, recruit, and retain world-class teachers if we want to build a world-class education system. It’s unacceptable that so many teachers have to work second jobs just to get by. That’s why I’ve called on states and districts to increase teacher pay, and asked Congress for an additional $20 billion for Title I schools each year, more than doubling current funding, so that these schools can increase teacher pay and compete for the teachers they need, and provide more opportunities for their students.
“My administration has also urged states to use American Rescue Plan funds to invest in teacher pipeline programs, including programs like residencies and registered teacher apprenticeship programs that allow future teachers to earn a salary while they’re preparing to be a teacher, opening up the profession to more people who might be called to be a teacher, but can’t afford it. We’ve called on Congress to provide more federal funding to double down on these investments in teachers. And, under my Administration, we’re helping more public service workers like educators get their student debt forgiven through our changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Under my administration, teachers will always have a champion and an ally in the White House.”
How will you address the learning/reading loss of students the past two years due to COVID? — Susan
“I know parents across the country have felt the brunt of juggling a pandemic, work, meeting their children’s needs, and the reopening of schools. I have heard from moms and dads across the country, and I know the toll you felt these past few years. One of my top priorities when I took office was re-opening our nation’s schools and getting kids back in the classroom. We worked quickly to get students back in classrooms safely.
“Now, we need to help kids catch up. My American Rescue Plan — which every Republican member of Congress voted against — included $130 billion to get students back to school safely, to keep them safe, help students recover academically, and provide them the mental health support they need. These funds are being used to hire more tutors, school counselors and social workers, and to provide students with greater access to afterschool and summer programs to help them catch up. A once-in-a-generation pandemic requires a once-in-a-generation response, and my administration is prioritizing this urgent need with actions, not just words.”
What are we doing about guns and assault weapons to make these mass shootings stop? — Heather
“The idea that kids in many parts of the country learn how to duck and cover at school rather than talking about reading, writing, and arithmetic — it’s not right. It’s not who we are. It’s not who we should be. Over the last two decades, more school-aged children have died from guns than on-duty police officers and active-duty military combined. Think about that: more kids than on-duty cops killed by guns, more kids than soldiers killed by guns. I am sick and tired of it.
“And I am trying to fix this. That’s why I’ve taken more executive action on gun violence than any other president at this point in this administration. That’s why my administration has issued rules to rein in ghost guns and better regulate stabilizing braces, announced zero tolerance for rogue gun dealers that willfully violate the law, and established strike forces to disrupt the gun trafficking corridors that bring guns from states with lax gun laws into those with strict rules that are desperately trying to stop the violence.
“It’s also why I pushed to secure confirmation of Steve Dettelbach to serve as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — its first confirmed leader since 2015. I’ve secured funding for ATF and FBI for gun tracing and background checks, and ensured that over $10 billion in American Rescue Plan dollars can be used for public safety.
“This is why I brought together Republicans and Democrats to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the most meaningful gun safety law in nearly 30 years. It closes the boyfriend loophole, funds mental health and red flag law implementation, and provides for enhanced background checks for purchasers under the age of 21. While it doesn’t do everything I want, it will save lives.
“But we have to do more. We must ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. It worked before, but Republicans in Congress are afraid of the NRA. They are blocking my ability to take additional steps on this. I have taken on the NRA and the gun lobby and won. If we grow our majorities in Congress, I’ll do it again.”
When will we have universal child care in this country? Daycares are a luxury that only a few can afford. How can we ensure that caregivers can go back to work and have their children in a safe daycare? — M
“We thrive as a nation when working parents have the ability to raise their children and participate in our economy. But, families like yours across the country are struggling to afford and find high-quality child care, making it hard for parents to work. For decades, the costs of child care have rapidly increased and now make up one of the largest costs in family budgets. At the same time, child care providers operating on slim margins have long struggled to attract and retain the staff needed to provide high-quality care at prices parents can afford.
“Through the American Rescue Plan, my administration provided historic funding to help more than 200,000 child care providers stay open in every corner of the country, and I expanded tax credits to provide families with some breathing room. I have called on Congress to make long-term investments in child care so that working families can access high-quality, affordable child care.”
How do you plan to tackle the mental health crisis? — Bailey
“The pandemic had a profound impact on the mental health of Americans across the country — particularly for our children. And, a tremendous toll has been put on mental health professionals across the country like you. As I said in my State of the Union address last March, we can and must do more to transform how we address mental health in America.
“First, we need full parity between physical and mental health care. Mental health care is health care, period. My administration released a comprehensive strategy to strengthen our mental health system, improve training and recruiting a diverse pipeline of behavioral health professionals, invest in prevention efforts that help people before they are in a crisis and research new models for treating mental health conditions, support programs to address health worker burnout, and expand community-based mental health crisis response. We also launched the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline in July and invested $432 million – an 18-fold increase in federal support – to help states prepare for the transition to 988, providing critical resources to help ensure access to trained crisis counselors via phone, chat, and text.
“Earlier this year, I was proud to sign the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which included historic resources to help address mental health needs across our nation, particularly for young people that have been exposed to violence.”
With many women acting as the breadwinners for their families, what are your plans to combat the constant increasing cost of living and inflation rates? — Cobie
“I know Americans across the country are feeling squeezed by the cost of living and it can sometimes feel like there is no end in sight. But we are making progress. Gas prices, for example, have declined over $1.20 since the summer’s peak.
“My number one priority is giving families more breathing room and lowering inflation. To date, my administration has taken steps to lower prescription drug costs, lower health care premiums, tackle energy costs, lower housing costs by boosting production, and tackle junk fees such credit card late fees, overdraft, and bounced check fees.
“I know that women acting as breadwinners are facing particularly acute caregiving challenges – through the American Rescue Plan I made historic investments to keep more than 200,000 child care providers open through the pandemic and help more families access long-term care. I also delivered on my campaign promise to forgive up to $10,000 for non-Pell grant recipients, which will lift a crushing lifelong burden for millions of Americans. Since I took office, we have created 10 million jobs — a record at this point in a presidency.
“We still have more work to do. But we can’t afford a Republican Congress that is campaigning on tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations. Their campaigns are promising policies that will drive up inflation and raise the cost of prescription drugs, health care, and energy. And they are not prioritizing critical investments needed to help families access high-quality, affordable child care and long-term care. This is the wrong approach.”
What are your immediate plans to address the border crossing and how are you going to handle the many people being shipped to New York? How will you not only help the immigrants but keep our state safe? — Donna
“My administration is taking unprecedented steps to secure our border, disrupt criminal smuggling networks preying on vulnerable migrants, and expand legal pathways to the US. There are 23,000 agents and officers and more than 1,200 additional support personnel working to secure our nation’s borders. And my administration has seized more illicit fentanyl at our borders than ever before – just this year, we have seized over 14,000 pounds. With each seizure, we’re cutting drug traffickers’ profits and saving lives.
“Instead of advancing solutions, Republicans decided to play political charades by busing and flying asylum seekers across the country under false pretenses and abandoning them on the side of [the] road. My administration is actually addressing the challenge of migration through diplomacy, technology, combatting human smuggling, tackling root causes and expanding safe, legal channels for migration. Since we announced our new Venezuela enforcement policy with Mexico on October 12th, there has been a dramatic drop in Venezuelan border crossings and a significant reduction in busing. This is in stark contrast to the walls, buses, family separation and other inhumane practices employed by the other side.
“Of course, more can be done to rebuild our immigration system — which the prior administration gutted — if Republican elected officials would stop blocking comprehensive immigration reform legislation or obstructing the work we are doing to build a safe, orderly, and humane border processing system.”
It’s tough to wake up every day in a country that seemingly hates women, people of color, and the LGBTQIA+ community. What do you intend to do to make America feel welcoming again to those of us feeling trampled on? — Ashley
“Our country is at an inflection point and the soul of our nation is at stake. There is no doubt about it. I decided to run for president after Charlottesville to fight the battle for the soul of this nation and unite the country. By that, I meant the core values of who we are as Americans: honesty, decency, and respect. Giving hate no safe harbor. Giving everyone a shot at making it. That was never going to be the work of one election. And, it was never going to be easy.
“Recently, I held the United We Stand Summit at the White House, where Americans who had been targeted, based on who they are or what they believe, came together to reject hate-fueled violence. We heard from survivors and people who had lost loved ones and are rebuilding their communities after attacks. I announced a series of new actions that my administration is taking, from providing better resources to prevent hate-fueled violence to seeking new funding to protect houses of worship.
“I signed into law landmark hate crimes legislation. My administration is fighting to end white supremacy and executing the first-ever National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism. And I signed an executive order during Pride Month to protect LGBTQIA+ people against these hateful attacks.
“We have more to do. Hate and fear are being given too much oxygen by those who pretend to love America, but who don’t understand America. Every other nation is based on ethnicity or geography. In America, we’re based on an idea that all people are created equal. We’ve never lived up to that, but we never before walked away from it. We remain in the battle for the soul of our nation. I know we’ll win that battle. I know we’ll win it”