Biden takes aim at Republican spending cuts plan

By Andrea Shalal

LANHAM, Maryland (Reuters) – President Joe Biden, armed with a new team of economic advisers, took aim on Wednesday at Republican plans to cut U.S. spending as his administration gears up for a huge fight to preserve the outlays he credits with fueling an American recovery.

At issue is Republicans’ refusal to raise the statutory $31.4 trillion U.S. debt limit unless Biden agrees to spending cuts. The White House has said such measures will only be discussed after the debt ceiling is lifted.

With his own approval ratings now at 36% despite 53-year low unemployment and rising consumer sentiment, Biden sought to flip the script and point the finger at a Republican agenda that he said would amount to a giveaway to the super-wealthy, big corporations and big pharmaceutical companies.

In a speech at a union hall in suburban Maryland, Biden accused Republicans, who now control the House of Representatives, of pushing him to agree to spending cuts, while their own plans would add $3 trillion to the debt.

“How are they going to make these numbers not add up? here’s the deal – if Republicans try to take away people’s health care, increase costs for middle-class families or push Americans into poverty, I’m going to stop them,” Biden said.

Biden says his administration’s plans will cut U.S. debt by another $2 trillion on top of $1.7 trillion in reductions already made, while sticking to his promise not to raise taxes for anyone earning less than $400,000 a year.

“Let’s be crystal clear about what’s happening,” he said. “If you add up all the proposals that my Republican friends in Congress have offered so far, they would add another $3 trillion to the debt over 10 years.”

Since taking control of the House last month, Republicans have passed measures to reverse or pare back Biden-backed laws, including the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes green tax credits and reforms aimed at lowering prescription drug prices.

Republicans argue that federal spending is too high and will fuel inflation while raising the U.S. debt level.

Senate Democrats are preparing to fan out to their home states and tout Biden’s economic wins so far, such as insulin price caps, energy-related tax credits and infrastructure grants.

They also plan a separate news conference on Wednesday aimed at highlighting House Republicans’ planned budget cuts. The president on Tuesday chose new allies to help lead the fight, naming Federal Reserve Vice Chair Lael Brainard to replace former top economic adviser Brian Deese, and nominating Jared Bernstein to head the Council of Economic Advisers.

He also gave new authority to deputy National Economic Council director Bharat Ramamurti, a former adviser to Senator Elizabeth Warren and a vocal critic of oil and gas companies’ windfall profits, and named Labor Department chief economist Joelle Gamble as one of Brainard’s deputies.

Biden’s speech to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 26 in Lanham, Maryland, built on his State of the Union address last week in which he assailed oil companies for making high profits and doubled down on pledges to rout “trickle-down” economics from policymaking.

(This story has been refiled to add the full name and title of Brian Deese in paragraph 11)

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Alistair Bell)