By Trevor Hunnicutt
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden marked the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday by adopting a fighting stance against proposals floated by Republicans who control the House, dismissing some as “fiscally demented.”
Gearing up for an expected announcement in the weeks ahead that he will run for a second, four-year term in 2024, Biden offered the sketches of an initial pitch to voters at an MLK breakfast organized by civil rights advocate Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.
In his remarks, Biden said he has delivered for Black Americans in many areas in his two years in office and said he wants to get more support in Congress for stalled voting rights legislation.
“We’ve gotten a lot done together. So let’s keep it going,” he said.
Democrats, however, who control only a narrow majority in the Senate, would face the same hurdles as last year in securing enough Republican support to reach the 60 votes needed to advance voting rights legislation.
Black voters were a key part of the base of support that lifted Biden to victory in 2020 after pledging to do more to defend voting rights and address other racial justice issues. Some activist groups boycotted a 2022 speech he gave honoring King, disappointed by what they see as his lack of action.
Sharpton introduced Biden as a man who had “the back” of the Black community and recalled his prior visit to the breakfast event when he was deciding whether to run for election in 2020.
While much of his half-hour speech was aimed at projecting unity, Biden foreshadowed fireworks ahead with Republicans who took control of the House of Representatives not quite two weeks ago, casting many as extreme even as he pledged to search for common ground.
Since taking control of the House, Republicans have gone on the attack against Biden. On Friday they launched an investigation into the Justice Department’s handling of improperly stored classified documents possessed by Biden.
Biden said he is prepared to work with Republicans if they want to work together, but said he would veto their proposals on strategic petroleum reserves, cutting taxes on corporations and a national sales tax should they reach his desk.
“That’s how they’re starting their term,” Biden said of Republican lawmakers. “If any of these bills happen to reach my desk, I will veto them – any of them.”
Renewing his appeal for raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations, Biden said Republicans’ bid to cut taxes for the wealthy showed that “these guys are fiscally demented. They just don’t get it.”
Biden and the Republicans appear to be headed toward a political showdown over raising the U.S. debt ceiling, with Republicans wanting to cut spending in exchange for voting in favor of raising the ceiling.
The House overwhelmingly passed a bill last Thursday to ban releases of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve from being exported to China, though the measure faces an uncertain future in the Senate.
Biden said the legislation would raise gasoline prices for Americans.
Some House Republicans have floated ideas to slash funding for the Internal Revenue Service and replace the federal income tax with a national sales tax.
(Reporting By Trevor Hunnicutt; Writing by Steve Holland; Editing by Leslie Adler)