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White House to counter GOP's soft-on-crime attacks by targeting far-right budget plan

Monday’s focus on crime was the opening salvo in a weeklong “offensive” to highlight different provisions in a budget put forward by the far-right House Freedom Caucus.
President Joe Biden leaving the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday.Alex Brandon / AP

The White House planned a messaging push Monday that appears aimed at countering Republican criticism that President Joe Biden and Democrats are weak on crime, a White House official said.

The official described Monday’s focus on crime as the opening salvo in a weeklong “offensive” to highlight different provisions in a budget put forward by the far-right House Freedom Caucus. According to the official, “each day this week, the White House will zero in on how the MAGA budget proposal would be a disaster for hardworking families in a different way.” 

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was to discuss GOP proposals at the top of her daily briefing Monday, arguing that the Freedom Caucus budget would cut funding for law enforcement — from local agencies and state grants to the FBI — as well as diminish staffing at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and generally “make communities less safe.” The comments were to be amplified by “an aggressive digital push” on the issue, the White House official said. 

The White House planned to lean on its own analysis of the Freedom Caucus budget to back up its claims.

While House Republicans’ official budget has yet to be released, the White House is latching onto the proposal that represents the views of the House GOP’s most right-leaning members. The budget proposes, among other provisions, capping discretionary spending at fiscal 2022 levels for a decade.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California and other Republicans criticized Biden’s budget, released this month, as unserious and reckless, in part because of provisions to raise taxes on corporations and people making more than $400,000 a year. A number of administration officials are scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill this week about the provisions in Biden’s budget.

The White House’s decision to focus Monday on crime in America underscores how the issue is influencing the political debate and what Biden is choosing to highlight as he is expected to launch a re-election campaign. Since the 2020 primaries, Biden has rejected some of his party’s approach on crime, saying he opposed a push by some Democrats to “defund the police.” But he recently upset some of his fellow Democrats — and took them by surprise — when he decided to back a House Republican bill to overturn a Washington, D.C., crime law that the GOP said would weaken law enforcement efforts.

After Monday’s focus on crime, White House officials plan to highlight on Tuesday how they believe the House Freedom Caucus budget would increase costs on families, on Wednesday how they believe it would hurt U.S. manufacturing, on Thursday how they believe it would weaken the country on national security concerns, including China, and on Friday how they believe it would be harmful to seniors, a White House official said.