President Biden accused congressional Republicans Tuesday of “calling for … defunding the police” — an audacious attempt to distance Democrats from such calls ahead of the 2024 election.
The 80-year-old president made the claim during a visit with mass shooting survivors in Monterey Park, Calif., as he tries to position himself as tough on crime ahead of his anticipated re-election campaign.
“Congressional Republicans should pass my budget instead of calling for cuts in these [mental health] services or defunding the police or abolishing the FBI, as we hear from our MAGA Republican friends,” Biden said.
Although some Republicans have called for abolishing the FBI in response to misconduct and alleged political bias in high-profile cases, it remains a minority position — and calls for defunding the police generally have come from Democrats, over the opposition of Republicans.
Furthermore, funding law enforcement is primarily a local government responsibility, rather than a federal one.
Biden’s claim drew widespread ridicule on social media, as well as dismay from Democrats who saw the president as attempting to reconcile his positions with those of Republicans.
Last week, Congress passed a Biden-backed bill to cancel a local DC reform that would have softened some criminal penalties over the objections of local Democrats who insisted that Biden should respect the District’s self-governance.
“What are they pudding in this senile man’s pudding???” Massachusetts Republican activist Jon Fetherston tweeted.
“I feel like Biden is further diluting the perceivable differences between both parties for lots of people out there by taking this course with his rhetoric,” wrote another user.
Biden consistently pushed for harsh criminal penalties during his 36 years in the Senate — drawing both left-wing and conservative criticism in the 2020 election.
Critics say laws written by Biden in the 1980s and 1990s contributed to the mass incarceration of minorities, even sending some people to prison for life for dealing marijuana.
Biden pivoted ahead of the 2020 election, making a yet-to-be-honored pledge to release “everyone” in prison for marijuana while also voicing support for redirecting police funds.
Then-President Donald Trump claimed in 2020 that “Biden wants to defund the police,” though the Biden campaign insisted he did not.
Trump pointed to a unity agenda agreed upon by Biden and his socialist challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). The document did not use the term “defund,” but called for “policies that will reorient our public safety approach toward prevention, and away from over-policing.”
Biden orally committed in July 2020 to steer funds away from police when an interviewer asked him: “But do we agree that we can redirect some of the [police] funding?”
“Yes, absolutely,” Biden said.
During his final year in office, Trump sought to yank federal funding for four Democrat-led cities, including New York and Washington, where local officials defunded the police or allegedly tolerated violent protests.
Biden repealed that order.
White House spokesman Andrew Bates provided The Post with a list of examples of congressional Republicans supporting cuts to federal law enforcement agencies or programs, dating from the Trump administration through this year.
Examples included GOP opposition to federal subsidies sent to local departments through the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing program and Republican efforts to scrap the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“The American people will not stand for further GOP sabotage of law enforcement,” Bates said.
“Republicans need to assure the nation that they will abandon their years-long efforts to defund the police by targeting the COPS program President Biden created as a senator, including in their budget.
“They should forcefully condemn their colleagues who are calling for defunding the FBI and the ATF. And they need to get with the program on gun crime by finally dropping their opposition to an assault weapons ban, instead of trading AR-15 lapel pins and choosing the gun lobby over safer streets.”