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Biden’s final argument: Republicans would destroy the economy

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President Biden, in an 11-hour effort to shift the debate to inflation and the economy, began warning voters of the threat of government shutdowns, fee cuts, defaults and general chaos if Republicans take control of Congress.

Biden, who rose to power pledging to work across the aisle and fight some of the divisions that held his predecessor in check, leaned into the argument that Republicans pose a serious threat to fiscal peace and stability of the country. With scrutiny of Congress — and by extension, the president’s agenda — hanging in the balance in the final days before the Nov. 8 election, Biden and other leading Democrats are seizing on the fear of disorder to try to bring their responsibilities on the economy into a political weapon.

“Listen to this carefully: Republicans have made it clear that if they take over Congress, they will shut down government, refuse to pay our bills, and it will be the first time in our history that America will default – unless I give in and cut Social Security and Medicare,” Biden said Monday in a speech before the Democratic National Committee. “There is nothing, nothing, that will create more chaos, more inflation, and more damage to the American economy than that.”

GOP threatens debt ceiling

Less than two weeks before the election, Biden agreed on a closing message that goes beyond touting his achievements and defending his record on the economy, as he has done for months. Instead, it paints an increasingly dystopian picture of life under a divided government if “ultra-MAGA” or “mega-MAGA” Republicans come to power, attempting to seize on Republicans’ own pledges to use congressional votes on budgets and debt to force Biden into deep spending cuts.

During a speech this month at a Volvo plant in Hagerstown, Maryland, Biden spent more time criticizing the GOP than talking about his own economic plans, lamenting that voters still don’t know the platform. -shape Republicans on the economy. With wafer-thin majorities in the House and Senate, Democrats risk losing control of both if a handful of seats go to the opposing party.

“When it comes to the next Congress, it’s not a referendum — it’s a choice,” Biden said, a refrain he’s repeated multiple times over the past few weeks.

Biden’s new tone reflects the success Republican candidates have found in blaming the president and his party for high food and gas prices, as well as perceived increases in crime and immigration. Polls and analysts are increasingly predicting a strong Republican presence on Nov. 8, prompting Biden to seek with growing urgency ways to change the dynamic.

While Biden’s attacks grew as the election neared, the strategy of calling out Republican economic plans dates back months to this spring, when Biden seized on the release of an 11-point policy document. by Republican Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.), according to a Biden adviser who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy.

The plan by Scott, chairman of the Republican National Senate Committee, calls for taxing low-income Americans who do not pay federal income tax and “repealing” all federal laws every five years, potentially endangering mandatory spending programs like Medicare and Social Security. .

Rick Scott’s scorched earth style

Marking these policies as part of the “ultra-MAGA” agenda — a reference to former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” motto — Biden has sought to pit his own efforts to get things done with the proclamations of “extremist” Republicans. White House aides say the post was able to connect with voters and credit him with helping Biden secure a string of legislative victories this summer.

The president is stepping up his attacks now in part because Republicans have continued to present new positions that the White House says would be unpopular with voters, a Biden adviser said.

Biden’s warnings about a potential US government debt default may be his sharpest yet, after several top Republicans raised the possibility of using the debt ceiling as leverage in futures. political negotiations. Under the current system, Congress must approve debt even for the obligations it has already incurred — and if it doesn’t, economists say the resulting default would rattle the economy.

“They will threaten the very foundations of the American economy if we don’t meet their demands,” Biden said on Friday.

Biden — who often tells the public he’s not “making this up” — implored voters to look specifically at what Republicans have been saying about the economy.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who could become president if the GOP wins the House, suggested last week that his party would be willing to use a vote on the debt limit as a leverage to impose policy changes.

Rep. Jason T. Smith (R-Mo.), a leading contender to head the House Ways and Means Committee, said voters expect Congress to use “every tool “to fight inflation, strengthen the economy and achieve other goals. “The debt ceiling is absolutely one of those tools,” he said in a statement to The Washington Post.

As Republicans have rolled out a number of policy stances in recent weeks, Biden has broadened his criticism and offered gloomier predictions about what would happen if Democrats lost control of Congress.

He said the GOP would blast the deficit with tax cuts for the wealthy, raise inflation by reversing its Cut Inflation Act, and target popular programs like Social Security and Medicare. for significant discounts.

Republicans said Biden was simply trying to change the subject of his own fragile economic record and the high inflation Americans have experienced under his leadership.

The White House notes that during Biden’s tenure, the economy created millions of jobs, the federal deficit shrank significantly, and Democrats passed bills to tackle prescription drugs, energy and energy. other costs. But those arguments had limited impact on anxious voters.

Few GOP candidates have responded directly to Biden’s attacks, perhaps a sign they don’t feel vulnerable on an issue where voters generally trust Republicans more than Democrats.

Doug Heye, a Republican strategist who worked for House GOP leaders during the debt ceiling battles between Congress and former President Barack Obama, said Biden’s warnings about impending unrest ring hollow since so many Americans are already facing historic inflation.

“It doesn’t seem like something that will be salient to voters,” Heye said. “He always talks about ‘in theory’ versus ‘in practice’, when what the families have been through for the past two years has been chaotic for them.”

Biden’s shift in rhetoric comes as a growing number of Democrats have called on party leaders to deliver a sharper economic message ahead of midterms. This year, Biden and many Democratic candidates said the Supreme Court ruling overturning abortion rights, January 6 committee hearings showing threats to democracy and other issues would be more decisive for voters. as they headed to the polls.

But those issues have faded from the headlines somewhat as the economy has continued to be a source of angst for voters, prompting more Democrats to push the White House to tailor its message to counter Republican arguments on the inflation and potential recession.

“In my view, while the issue of abortion needs to remain front and center, it would be a political mistake for Democrats to ignore the state of the economy and let the lies and distortions Republicans with no answer,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote this month in an op-ed for the Guardian. Sanders argues that Republican policies promote a vast wealth gap between the super rich and everyone else.

White House aides say Biden will continue to tout his economic record while calling on Republicans for their proposals, saying the two messages reinforce each other. The president also plans to continue to draw a contrast between himself and his enemies on other issues, ranging from abortion to democracy to civil rights, an adviser said.

Biden campaigned for president on his ability to work bipartisanly and passed a number of bills with Republican support. But as the election nears and many Republican candidates continue to deny the 2020 election results, he has been more willing to cast the opposition as a party of hardliners.

This summer, Biden denounced “MAGA Republicans,” saying “they are a threat to our very democracy” and accusing them of moving toward “semi-fascism.” In a speech last month, he clarified that he was not talking about all, or even most, Republicans.

In the weeks that followed, as Biden’s attacks shifted to the economy, the president cast a wide net in outlining the risks he believed the country would face if the GOP were successful in the November election.

“We have to remind people what the Republicans, this new Republican party, are for,” Biden said Friday at a reception for Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate nominee. “It’s not your father’s Republican party, like I said. It’s a different group of people.

washingtonpost

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