'Fiscally demented:' In MLK Day remarks, Biden attacks Republicans' legislative priorities
WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden on Monday criticized Republicans as "fiscally demented" and said the GOP's top priority legislation would worsen inflation while increasing taxes on the working class and helping the super wealthy.
"That’s how they’re starting their new term," Biden said during remarks at an event hosted by the National Action Network, a civil rights organization. "If any of these bills happen to reach my desk, I will veto them."
Biden began his comments, delivered on the federal holiday honoring the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., listing ways he said his administration has helped Black Americans, a group crucial to his 2020 election to the White House. But Biden said those accomplishments now have to be defended because Republicans won control of the House in the 2022 midterm elections.
"On this one and so much I have your back," said Biden, who is expected to announce in the coming weeks that he will run for a second term in 2024. "We've got to stand together."
Biden’s comments came as he’s been under increasing attack from Republicans over his handling of classified documents when he was vice president.
“A lot of questions to be asked," House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., said Monday on Fox Business Network’s "Mornings with Maria." "At least finally, you have somebody willing to ask those questions now that Republicans are in charge of the House to get some accountability and some answers."
White House spokesman Ian Sams on Monday charged that Republicans are being “shamelessly hypocritical” because they’ve dismissed concerns about the much larger cache of classified documents possessed by former President Donald Trump who resisted relinquishing them.
- Ending 2022 strong: Democrats' better-than-expected showing in the midterm elections helped Biden end 2022 with a pile of late-year victories. His approval rating had started to tick back up.
- Early stumble: But last week's disclosure that classified documents were found in his private office in Washington and a garage at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, is a problem. They've added legitimacy to Republicans' determination to investigate Biden.
- Drawing a contrast: Biden didn't address the documents issue specifically, or Republicans' investigative bent generally, in Monday's remarks. Instead, he tried to draw a contrast in policies.
Biden attacks Republicans
Biden delivered what was perhaps his harshest comment Monday indirectly. He said his administration was able to improve the lives of Black Americans and others while being fiscally responsible, touting an increase in the corporate minimum tax and a decrease in the deficit.
"These guys are the fiscally demented, I think," Biden added in an apparent reference to Republicans. "They don't quite get it."
Brewing fiscal fights
Biden was more specific when criticizing some of House Republicans' legislative priorities. He said the bill Republicans passed last week to rescind a funding bump for the IRS to hire some 87,000 workers including agents would add $114 billion to the deficit by making it easier for the wealthy and big corporations to cheat on their taxes. Republicans say their bill, which has little chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate, is needed to prevent IRS agents from going after hardworking Americans.
Biden also criticized a GOP plan, which has not yet been voted on, to abolish the IRS and replace the income tax with a consumption tax.
And he accused Republicans of wanting to go after Social Security and Medicare, a potential fight that is brewing as Republicans vow that federal spending must be reined in before they'll agree to raise the limit on how much the government can borrow.
Beyond fiscal policy, Biden also defended his actions on social justice and culture war issues.
Talking about civil rights accomplishments – including making lynching a federal hate crime, establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday and enshrining marriage equality in federal law – Biden said addressing abuses of the past is "not being `woke'."
"That's being honest," he said.
Some Republicans have rallied against a "wokeness" they say is being pushed on society as punishment for "past and present alleged sins."
Why it matters
Biden repeated his frequent claims that he's willing to work with Republicans on "real solutions." But legislative gridlock is the more likely outcome in a divided government, particularly in today's polarized political environment.
As he gears up for an expected reelection bid, Biden is using every opportunity to draw a contrast with the GOP. His address Monday might have had the added goal of firing up a key constituency.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network, introduced Biden by saying he's always had Black America's back.
"Over the past two years we’ve gotten an awful lot done together," Biden said. "So let's keep it going."
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