By Trevor Hunnicutt
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Joe Biden marked the holiday of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday by taking a combative stance against proposals from Republicans who control the House, with some dismissed as “fiscal dementia.”
Preparing for an expected announcement in the coming weeks that he will run for a second four-year term in 2024, Biden offered the drafts of an initial pitch to voters at an MLK breakfast hosted by civil rights attorney Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.
In his remarks, Biden said he has accomplished for black Americans in many areas in his two years in office and said he wants more support in Congress for stalled voting rights legislation.
“We’ve done a lot together. So let’s keep going,” he said.
However, Democrats, who control only a slim majority in the Senate, would have to overcome the same hurdles they faced last year to gain enough Republican support to pass the 60 votes needed to advance voting rights legislation.
Black voters were an important part of the support that propelled Biden to victory in 2020 after he pledged to do more to defend voting rights and address other racial justice issues. Some activist groups are boycotting a speech he gave in King’s honor in 2022, disappointed with 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 previous visit to the breakfast event when deciding whether to run for election in 2020.
While much of his half-hour speech focused on exuding unity, Biden foreshadowed fireworks ahead with Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives less than two weeks ago, with many turning equally extreme. , even if he promised to search for common ground.
Since taking control of the House, Republicans have gone on the offensive against Biden. On Friday, they launched an investigation into the Justice Department’s handling of improperly filed classified documents in Biden’s possession.
Biden said he is willing to work with Republicans if they want to cooperate, but said he would veto their proposals on strategic petroleum reserves, corporate tax cuts and a national sales tax if they reached his desk.
“That’s how they start their terms,” Biden said of Republican lawmakers. “If any of these bills reach my desk, I’ll veto it — one of them.”
Biden reiterated his call to raise taxes on the rich and corporations, saying the Republicans’ bid to cut taxes on the rich showed that “these guys are fiscal demented. They just don’t get it.”
Biden and the Republicans appear to be heading for a political confrontation over raising the US debt ceiling, with Republicans seeking cuts in exchange for votes to raise the ceiling.
The House overwhelmingly passed a bill last Thursday to ban oil from the US 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 cut funding for the Internal Revenue Service and replace the federal income tax with a state sales tax.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Writing by Steve Holland; Editing by Leslie Adler)