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Midterm elections: ‘We can flip’ Pennsylvania, Sen. Cardin says

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the primary election, inflation, supply chain issues, the $40 billion Ukraine aid package, and the future of the Democratic party.

Video transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Well, the Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary race remains too close to call following Tuesday's election, with former TV host Dr. Mehmet Oz and former Bridgewater Associates CEO David McCormick neck and neck. As we await those results though, the focus now shifts to the midterm elections in the fall, where polls show Democrats still face an uphill battle.

Let's bring in Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. Senator, it's always good to talk to you. I know you were watching those results very closely. Number one, for the Trump brand, to see how things fared out for the Republicans, it seemed like a bit of a split picture there, but polls still show that Democrats are really struggling right now, especially with inflation in focus. How do you think things set up going into November?

BEN CARDIN: Well, I think we have outstanding candidates. We are very pleased with our opportunities. The map is pretty good for Democrats. The Republicans have many more seats to defend than we do. They have more open seats than we do. So we think this is an opportunity to pick up a few seats. And that's what we're hoping to do in the November elections. Pennsylvania is one of those states that we believe we can flip from being held by a Republican to being held by a Democrat. So we're optimistic about the November elections.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Senator Cardin, Brian Cheung here. I want to ask about what the immediate pressing issue that I'm sure Americans are holding with them in mind as they go to the polls this midterms, which is inflation. Obviously, the Biden administration has been trying to sort through ways to approach all of this. It seems like the latest talking point is about tariffs. What are you and the Democrats hoping to do by the midterm elections to show Americans that the administration is taking this seriously?

BEN CARDIN: Well, I think we recognize the hardship for American families with rising prices. All we have to do is fill up our tank car with gas and know that with inflation, what it means the typical family in America. So we're trying to provide help, meaningful help. We're trying to do that through a lot of the programs that are included in the budgets.

We're doing that in regards to some of the basic family needs. We'd like to see child care more affordable. We'd like to deal with the cost of higher education. These are issues that we are dealing with. We're not getting a lot of cooperation from the Republicans, but we're going to continue to center on that.

And then to underscore that the core inflationary pressures are from energy, which is we know the war in Ukraine is the principal reason why. It's a small price for us to pay compared to what the Ukrainians are paying for their freedom. But it's still a real burden to America. So we have to deal with energy costs. We also know we have supply chain issues. That's why the legislation, bipartisan legislation that's in conference, the American COMPETES Act, will help shore up our domestic supply so we're no longer burdened by the failure of being able to get product here in America, which is adding to escalating costs.

And then the labor market. We want to see a stronger labor market in America so that we can find more workers. So these are areas that we're working on to deal with the causes of inflation, as well as the impact of inflation.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, that's certainly a very long list when you think about how you change voters' minds going into November. In the meantime, Senator, you've got a bill in the Senate right now to help small businesses, restaurants. $48 billion is what we're talking about. What are you hearing from some of those businesses who are not just coping from this bounce back from the pandemic, many of them are still in the red from that, but also having to deal with higher costs now?

BEN CARDIN: Well, it's desperate. I know those restaurants that were shut out of getting the Restaurant Revitalization Fund when it opened because there was not enough funds in it are at a very strong disadvantage to those restaurants that got the aid. Many of these restaurant owners are small business owners with a few employees. They're ma, pa type businesses, they've taken out mortgages on their home in order to keep the restaurant open. They're having a hard time competing with those other restaurants that got the help as far as getting workers.

So they're desperate. This is their last opportunity. So it's bipartisan legislation. Senator Wicker, Republican from Mississippi, is my co-leader on this. The members of the Senate are going to have a chance to vote as early as tomorrow on bringing this issue before the Senate floor. I hope we have the support for it, but as you know, we need a 60 vote threshold in the Senate under our current rules. And we'll see whether we can get that type of support.

BRIAN CHEUNG: And then lastly, Senator, I want to ask you just about the Russia Ukraine developments. That's still definitely not close to a resolution yet. I understand that you've been trying to advocate for the administration as they look towards some meetings in Asia towards possibly pressuring China as it relates to their interaction with Russia through all of this. I mean, give us a little bit more clarity into exactly what you're trying to communicate to the White House here.

BEN CARDIN: Well, first, we very much support President Biden's ability to get global support to isolate Mr. Putin and Russia. We've had tremendous support, not just from our traditional allies, but from countries that have not gotten involved in international events like this to side with us to isolate Russia. That's sanctions, that's supplying defensive weapons to the Ukrainians, that's holding those accountable for these atrocities through war crime activities, through helping the migrants, the refugees who have been had to leave their homes. All that we find a strong international support.

Now there are exceptions, and China is one of those countries that give us grave concern. We want them to know that they need to be on the right side of history. So, yes, we are in conversations with the Chinese to try to minimize what they're doing that could be used to support the Putin regime. There are other countries that we think could do a stronger job, and we're in conversations with them as well.

So we're pleased where we are. I met with Ukrainian parliamentarians yesterday to assess their needs. We need to do more. But it's been clearly the international effort led by the United States that allowed the extremely brave and courageous Ukrainian people to defend their country.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, thanks so much for taking the time, really appreciate it.

BEN CARDIN: My pleasure, good to be with you.

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