President Biden on Monday called Republicans “fiscally demented” and knocked GOP priorities during the keynote speech at the National Action Network’s (NAN) annual breakfast to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“They’re gonna talk about big-spending Democrats again. Guess what? I reduced the deficit last year $350 billion. This year, federal deficit is down $1 trillion-plus. That’s a fact. And there’s gonna be hundreds of billions reduced over the next decade. But so what? These guys are the fiscally demented, I think. They don’t quite get it,” Biden said of Republicans, prompting laughter from the crowd.
Biden in his speech offered sweeping remarks on his administration’s work on civil rights and called out Republicans for their economic stances in light of disparities faced by minority communities.
“I think the economy — the way it should grow in America — is from the bottom up and the middle out. That way poor folks have a shot, middle-class people do well and the wealthy still do very well. They still do very well. But they start to pay their fair share,” Biden said.
The president said he’s “ready to work” with Republicans who just took over the House, but said he was disappointed by the first few bills put forward in the chamber.
“Like many Americans, I was disappointed to see the very first bill that House Republicans… are bringing to the floor. It would help the wealthy people and big corporations cheat on their taxes at the expense of ordinary middle-class taxpayers… This is their first bill and they campaigned on inflation. They didn’t say if elected their plan was to make inflation worse,” Biden said.
He called out to former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in the audience, saying the California lawmaker was “probably rolling over” when the bill was introduced.
“What in God’s name is that all about? … That’s how they’re starting their new term,” Biden said. “If any of these bills happen to reach my desk, I will veto them.”
Biden also talked about building Black generational wealth by chipping away at economic disparities and closing the racial wealth gap — refocusing on funding for HBCUs and “aggressively” combatting discrimination in housing.
And the president reiterated calls to ban assault weapons, protect women’s right to choose and pardon marijuana possession charges. He said he didn’t “want to hear a word from the other side” about his plan to forgive student loan debt.
“These are the same folks who didn’t have any problem at all, any problem at all, during the pandemic… [making] sure they get these so-called pandemic relief loans… A lot of these folks in the Congress on the Republican side were beneficiaries of these debt relief loans to the tune of tens of millions of dollars,” Biden said.
“I did not hear a word from them about ‘They shouldn’t be getting that relief.’ … And they’re complaining about some kid being able to take away $20,000 of student debt that keeps him and his wife or his husband, her husband from being able to buy a home or start a business or just get going?” he said, saying he’s confident his plan will clear the legal challenges against it.
The president closed by saying he was pleased to see Democrats and Republicans work together on the Electoral Count Reform Act and urged Congress to pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and further protect “the sacred right to vote.”
“We have the most vibrant economy in the world right now. We’re doing better than any other major nation in the world today… The path is clear to go forward. We need to go together,” Biden said.
Introduced to the NAN’s annual breakfast by the Rev. Al Sharpton, Biden spoke before an audience of around 350 attendees, including civil rights leaders and members of Congress.
The day prior, Biden gave remarks at the Atlanta church where the slain Martin Luther King Jr. preached, arguing that the country is at an “inflection point” in its fight for democracy and equality.