With the closure imminent, Biden points to Republican infighting | ET REALITY


President Biden’s shutdown strategy is simple: avoid one, if possible. But if not, make sure Americans know who to blame.

His advisers in the White House and on his re-election campaign have spent the last few days describing the consequences of what they call an “extreme Republican shutdown” of the government: delays in disaster relief; there will be no food stamps for poor women and children; it is not paid to troops, air traffic controllers, Border Patrol or Transportation Security Administration agents.

“They are pushing the country toward an extreme government shutdown in the name of draconian cuts to education, law enforcement, Meals on Wheels and Head Start,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said, describing House Republicans. .

The president and his team are quick to insist that they do not want a shutdown, especially a prolonged one, because of the damage that would spread across the United States. But they are also confident that Republicans will take the blame, as they did during clashes that temporarily shut down government agencies in previous years.

White House advisers also believe that intraparty fighting in Congress is exposing Republican dysfunction, to the benefit of Biden and Democrats. President Kevin McCarthy and a handful of his more conservative colleagues refuse to keep the government open unless their demands for border security and spending cuts are met.

“Extremist House Republicans are playing partisan games with people’s lives and leading our country toward a government shutdown that would have damaging impacts across the country,” the White House said in a statement Thursday, highlighting nearly 2,000 disaster recovery projects that would be delayed by a shutdown.

McCarthy has tried to draw Biden into the drama by suggesting that he would be responsible for a work stoppage because of his refusal to support Republican proposals for more restrictions on migrants at the border with Mexico.

“The president is in your hands,” McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters at the Capitol this week. “He can keep the government open by taking action at the border.”

Biden has also been under pressure from members of his own party to confront the surge of migrants at the border, thousands of whom are putting enormous pressure on social services in big cities like New York and Boston.

The president and his aides have highlighted their efforts to give more immigrants the opportunity to receive work permits. And they have repeatedly noted that Republicans blocked a comprehensive overhaul of the country’s immigration system that could have helped authorities manage migration more easily.

Biden advisers, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss White House and campaign strategy, are confident that, with a little nudge, Americans will put the blame squarely on House Republicans if the government shuts down this weekend. That could benefit the president for the rest of his term, they say, by bolstering his influence with lawmakers and eroding support for the Republican majority in the House.

Campaign aides also say the sense of disgust among Americans over the antics at the Capitol will help Biden’s re-election campaign by sharpening the contrast with his rivals. Former President Donald J. Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican nomination, has urged House conservatives to shut down the government, a move that Biden’s advisers and supporters are quick to point out.

“Except for President Trump, who called on Republicans to shut down the government, no one really wants this, because it means real people will be hurt,” said Stephanie Cutter, a veteran Democratic strategist who has helped presidents develop messages inside the House. White. and during campaigns.

Those running Biden’s campaign would do well to repeatedly draw public attention to the similarities between Trump and his conservative allies in Washington, Cutter said.

“Republican infighting and dysfunction is the best example of the difference between Bidenomics and MAGAnomics,” he said. “These situations, when you think about your closing arguments, really help you crystallize the options that voters will have a year from now.”

The president’s team has begun to do just that.

His campaign issued a statement Monday criticizing Trump’s call for a shutdown, accusing House Republicans of “blithely letting Donald Trump function as their chief political strategist at the expense of American families.” Biden’s most recent Campaign advertisement, titled “El Camino”. emphasizes bipartisan legislative achievements even when the current Congress is deadlocked.

Inside the West Wing, the president’s closest advisers have been sending out daily talking points for their allies to follow through as a shutdown looms. Stephen Benjamin, White House public engagement director, and Anita Dunn, one of the president’s top strategists, emphasized those issues in a conference call Thursday with Democratic representatives.

Advisers are encouraging allies to emphasize several points.

First, they are asked to repeatedly remind voters that Biden and McCarthy shook hands months ago over a spending deal that was supposed to avoid a shutdown. The president, under pressure from his conservative members, subsequently reneged on the agreement.

Second, Biden’s allies are urged to take note of how isolated McCarthy is. Senate Republicans, including Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, have urged their House colleagues to accept a short-term deal to keep the government open.

Finally, Biden officials are asking his supporters to be specific about the pain a shutdown is likely to inflict.

The White House warned in a statement this week about the impact of a shutdown of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, which helps poor families buy food.

“During an extreme Republican shutdown, women and children on WIC would soon start being turned away at grocery store counters, with a federal contingency fund running out after just a few days and many states left with limited funds. of WIC to operate the program. ”the statement said.

The White House went into more detail with a state-by-state breakdown of exactly how many women, children and babies were enrolled in the program (421,294 in Florida, 207,728 in Michigan, 139,765 in Arizona, etc.) and at risk of losing. attendance.

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