President Biden has found a new foil: the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
Biden has sought to cast the group, which includes Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio), as the face of the GOP in order to contrast their vision for the country with his own as he prepares to launch his reelection bid.
At the State of the Union address, Biden went off script to battle Freedom Caucus members in real time over social programs, provoking Greene into yelling that he was a “liar” for saying that Republicans wanted to cut Social Security and Medicare.
More recently, Biden name-checked the Freedom Caucus on Friday, arguing that its proposed national budget plan would cut all spending other than defense by 25 percent — a characterization the group later disputed.
“Twenty-five percent across the board,” Biden said in remarks scheduled to discuss a jobs report released that morning. “That means cops, firefighters, it means health care — that’s just what they call discretionary spending.”
Biden is set to up the ante as he travels across the country in the coming months. Aides and allies say he’s eager to set up a 2024 race as a choice between his policies and the House’s most conservative caucus.
While it’s unclear how many Americans are familiar with the group, Democrats say they are eager for the fight.
“The Freedom Caucus is a highly effective foil for Biden because many Americans believe they speak for the Republican Party as a whole and are intentionally the most vocal,” said Basil Smikle, the director of the public policy program at Hunter College, who has also served as the executive director of the New York State Democratic Party.
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry (R-Pa.) has fired back at Biden over the criticisms, saying he was only looking for a “distraction.”
“He wants to talk about the Freedom Caucus, and we’re happy to have him do it because it shows the very stark contrast of what people can expect under and continue to expect under a Biden presidency,” Perry said.
He blamed Biden for the coronavirus pandemic-era shutdowns that he said slowed the economy and argued voters will be better off “keeping more of your own money and being free in America.”
Perry also slammed Biden’s characterization of the Freedom Caucus’s plan, saying that the president was spreading “abject lies” about what the group wanted to cut and engaging in a “smear-and-fear campaign.”
“For him to mention things like firefighters, police officers and health care — obviously, either he didn’t watch the press conference, he can’t read, or someone is, you know, got their hand up his back and they’re speaking for him,” Perry said.
Some rank-and-file members of the caucus welcomed the Biden criticism.
“Whether he realizes it or not, President Biden has become the de facto spokesperson for the House Freedom Caucus’s plan to shrink Washington and grow America,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas). “The American people — tired of inflation, bank runs, undefended borders and out of control bureaucrats — simply want Congress to cut inflationary spending and rein in the bloated federal bureaucracy weaponized against them.“
“Every time the president tries to attack this commonsense plan, his failures make our case for it all over again,” Roy added.
Biden has made it clear he hopes to tie his 2024 opponent and House GOP leaders to the ideas backed by the most conservative elements of the conference.
In remarks, Biden frequently mentions Greene, who is arguably the group’s most famous lawmaker.
Most recently, he mocked Greene in remarks to House Democrats last month, saying: “Isn’t she amazing?” The Republican congresswoman had pointed to fentanyl poisoning deaths and blamed Biden administration policies, but the deaths occurred when former President Trump was still in office.
The president has also criticized “MAGA Republicans in Congress,” a criticism meant to poke the Freedom Caucus and House Republicans in general as being acolytes of Trump, who used the “Make America Great Again” slogan during his campaigns.
And at a January fundraiser, Biden said that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had to “make commitments that are just absolutely off the wall” in order to win enough votes from conservatives to be elected Speaker in January.
The Freedom Caucus was the first House GOP group to offer specific spending cut demands as a condition for raising the debt ceiling, giving Biden further opportunity to use the group as a foil. During a campaign-style stop in Virginia Beach late last month where he discussed health care, Biden called the Republican group “a different breed of cat.”
“Now, they’re not bad or good … they’re very different,” he said. “There’s kind of like, in my view, sort of two Republican parties. And I’ve served a long time.”
In the coming months, Perry predicted that Biden is “going to continue to grasp at straws.”
“He doesn’t want people to be thinking about how miserable their lives are, what’s happening at the border, how they can’t afford things, how savings across America are down, how graduation levels in an inner-city school districts are terrible,” Perry said.
“He doesn’t want anybody thinking about his policies,” he said.
Source: The Hill
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