The midterm election season is on, and the bipartisan gloves are off.
President Joe Biden Wednesday cast Republicans as a bunch of extremists bent on taxing low-income families, putting popular programs like Social Security in peril and threatening the rights of women and LGBTQ people.
“This MAGA crowd is really the most extreme political organization that’s existed in recent American history,” the president said in remarks at the White House.
His comments, part of an event to tout his administration’s progress in reducing the federal deficit, marked a shift from his previous rhetoric while speaking from the White House.
In the midst of entrenched partisanship on Capitol Hill and across the country, Biden – a veteran of more cooperative times in Congress – has taken pains to laud individual Republicans for their bipartisan work on legislation, and repeatedly has insisted he is willing to hear the GOP point of view and work together.
Political Cartoons on Joe Biden
That ended Wednesday, when Biden, whose Democratic party faces an extremely challenging election season this year, went after Republicans with pointed complaints and warnings about their vision for America.
“Senator Rick Scott of Florida,” who is chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, “released what he called the ultra MAGA agenda. It’s a MAGA agenda alright, Biden said, flipping former President Donald Trump’s signature phrase against him. “It’s extreme, as most MAGA things are.”
“It will actually raise taxes on 75 million American families, over 95% of whom make less than $100,000 a year. Among the hardest hit? Working families,” the president said accusingly.
A campaign strategy memo Scott wrote includes proposals to require that all Americans – even low-income people – pay taxes, and would make now-permanent federal programs subject to every five years, Biden noted.
“Social Security is something seniors have paid into their whole life, and it has to be reauthorized? It has to be reauthorized every five years?” Biden said, tapping what has long been known as the “third rail of politics,” since people old enough to receiveSocial Security benefits are among the most reliable voters.
“It’s hard to make this up. But then again, it’s a MAGA agenda,” Biden said.
Democrats face what now appears to be a grim Election Day for them this November, with many prognosticators predicting they will lose their narrow control of the House of Representatives because of Democratic retirements and historical trends favoring the party out of power in the White House in midterms.
Democratic chances of hanging on to their de facto control of the 50-50 Senate are somewhat better, in part because Republicans have had a lackluster recruiting effort. But given the fact that Democrats can’t lose a single seat – and that key races are expected to be very close – they have little room for error.
Biden, who served in the Senate for 36 years and often recalls the days when Democrats and Republicans would work together as competitor-friends, was determined to take Washington back to a more bipartisan time after four tumultuous Trump years. That has produced some successes, including a big-ticket bipartisan infrastructure law.
But Democratic activists have groused in the past six to eight months that Biden was not tough enough, and needed to go toe-to-toe with a Republicans party that had no qualms about brutally criticizing Biden and painting his fellow Democrats as socialists.
The president’s remarks Wednesday morning indicate he has taken that view, as well.
He noted that under Trump – whose name he declined to say, as is usual for him —the deficit went up every year, while under the current administration, the deficit dropped $350 billion, and is projected to drop by another $1.5 trillion this year.
“I don’t want to hear Republicans talk about deficits and their ultra MAGA agenda. I want to hear about fairness. I want to hear about decency,” Biden said, blaming the GOP’s $2 trillion tax cut for both Trump-era deficits and income inequality.
In a response to a question about Tuesday’s bombshell leak of a Supreme Court opinion reversing the Roe v Wade ruling guaranteeing legal abortion, Biden warned that Republicans were after much more – including other “privacy” issues such as contraception, sexual orientation and identity.
“What happens if you.. change the law, saying children who are LGBTQ can’t be in a classroom with other children. Is that legitimate?” Biden said in a clear reference to a potential 2024 rival, GOP Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“What are the next things that are going to be attacked?” Biden said.
The draft Supreme Court opinion has angered and energized largely pro-abortion rights Democrats. Republicans – while speedily calling the draft a victory for their antiabortion agenda, have also been avoiding discussing the actual impact on women. Polling shows Americans overwhelmingly support Roe v Wade, although support for abortion rights drops when voters are asked about late-term procedures.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky refused to discuss the impact of the ruling on the midterm elections, chiding reporters to focus on what he said was the real story – the shocking leak of a Supreme Court draft.
Democrats are using the draft to cast the GOP as out-of-touch and extreme on social issues. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, promised to push legislation codifying the right to abortion though it stands little chance of passage.
It is not expected to survive a filibuster attempt. But Schumer and Democrats will still get what they want – a way to put the GOP on the record.