Budget showdown: Biden exposes Republicans on crime and police

by IANS |

Washington, March 17 (IANS) US President Joe Biden is going all out to turn the tables on Republicans who are trying to paint Democrats as being soft on crime in the hope of winning the crucial spending fight this year on the budget showdown, ahead of the election year in 2024.

Republicans however stoutly defend their position and dismiss Biden's counterclaims saying that the Democrats are the ones who would like to "defund the police" as budget and debt ceiling talks escalate before a summer deadline with far-reaching economic ramifications, media reports say.

The US government breached the debt ceiling limit of $31.4 trillion needing a relaxation to raise it further to meet commitments on pay-outs for senior citizens welfare schemes, interest payments to institutions and honouring the deals on US securities, the most traded financial instrument in money markets globally.

Biden has virtually gone to war against the freedom caucus ahead of the debt ceiling showdown, says the Washington Examiner in a special dispatch.

US Treasury Secretary Yanet Yellen has told the Congress that unless the debt ceiling limit is raised by the House of Reps, the US economy could take a serious hit and investors could lose their confidence in the US which has a huge external commercial borrowing, 247 per cent of its trillion dollar GDP, one of the highest in the world, next to Singapore. Yellen says she can do extraordinary measures to meet commitments till June this year but not beyond.

Biden is "top-tier gaslighting" the public after he "filled his administration with radical 'defund the police' supporters from top to bottom," Republican strategists charge.

Democrat-run cities continue to advocate for defunding the police and have followed through by slashing money from police budgets," Republican National Committee spokeswoman Emma Vaughn was quoted by the Examiner as saying. "Americans know that Democrats are to blame for the rise in violent crime." Vaughn has forwarded a "helpful" RNC video titled "Nine Minutes of Democrats Calling for Defunding the Police" in an attempt to defame the Democrats on the eve of election year.

Biden had first distanced himself from more liberal Democrats and their "defund the police" movement during his State of the Union address last year, and asked the Congress for increased money for police training, among such other schemes, says the University of Wisconsin-Madison Elections Research Center Director Barry Burden.

"That is a rather different position from prominent progressives in his party who want (to) redirect police funding to social services and other initiatives," he said. Biden was not as direct during this year's address, delivered with Tyre Nichols's parents, RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, in the House chamber.

Nichols, a black man, was beaten to death by five black former Memphis, Tennessee, police officers in January.

Poll strategists say that however alarming it may be, standing behind policing will make it difficult in the 2024 presidential campaign for Republicans to cast Biden as an irresponsible liberal who does not care about crime," Burden said. "Republicans will continue to blame Biden for the violent crimes in the country. He said this strategy did not however work in the 2022 midterm elections when it ran up against the abortion issue.

Vaughn and Wells however claim that it's quite possible that sitting and former Republican governors, especially those wanting to be GOP nominees for the 2024 presidential run, could undercut Biden and Democrats on crime as they can cite their state's respective policies.

Middlebury College political science professor Bertram Johnson however disagrees, though he did not agree that Biden is deploying the "the best defence is a good offense" tactic.

Democrats may garner a quantum of solace and support in highlighting the negative effects of budget cuts in general, they will find it a tough going to convince voters that Democrats support police more than Republicans do," he said.

In a memo circulated to reporters on Wednesday, the White House spokesman Andrew Bates argued that the House Freedom Caucus is seeking to "defund the police by cutting 20 per cent of federal funding for law enforcement, assuming their proposed cuts are spread evenly." The House Freedom Caucus circulated its budget demands last week.

The Caucus is planning to reverse the Biden administration's common sense step to more strictly regulate stabilising braces attached to pistols - the weapon of choice for mass shooters in Boulder and Dayton," Bates wrote. "This also comes as a slew of MAGA Congressional Republicans advocate for abolishing the FBI and the ATF - the first responders to the mass shooting after state and local police, media reports said.

Biden stated at a Monterey Park, California, meeting this week that his new gun control executive order, which, among other actions, will ensure gun dealers conduct proper background checks on the buyers, a condition being that the person be of sane mind and seeks the gun for self protection and is also not a danger to his live-in partner. A gunman killed 11 people at a Monterey Park dance studio in January this year, it may be recalled.

Biden said that in his budget last week he had outlined the government invest more in safer communities schemes. "And expand access to mental health services for those affected by gun violence," he said on Tuesday. "Congressional Republicans should pass my budget instead of calling for cuts to these services or defunding the police or abolishing the FBI, as we hear from our MAGA Republican friends," he said

Biden spun the "defund the police" campaign amid his budget and debt ceiling issues with Republicans in Philadelphia, a key constituency for the Democrats, last week during a speech about his budget, though some reporters thought he misspoke.

"MAGA Republicans are calling for defunding the police departments and defunding the FBI now," he said. "That's a good one. I like that one... My budget invests in public safety. It includes funding for more training; more support for law enforcement at a time when they're expected to play many roles," a media report quoted the president as saying.

"We're going to provide 100,000 more community policing officers nationwide and invest in tens of thousands more school nurses and school counsellors and mental health help," Biden said adding, "We're going to save communities billions of dollars over time."

The White House had argued in 2021 that Republicans tried to defund the police by voting against the American Rescue Plan Act, which allocated more than $350 billion in emergency money for state, county, city, and tribal governments to avoid, for instance, officer layoffs because of the pandemic.

Biden's aides have also dinged Republicans who endorsed former President Donald Trump's budget, which recommended dismantling the Department of Justice's Community Relations Services and Community Oriented Policing Services, the Examiner pointed out.

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