Biden, allies increasingly resist viral GOP barbs

President Joe Biden watched an audience of government scientists and framed his latest plan to fight COVID-19 as an opportunity to finally end controversy over the virus, calling the politicization of the issue a “sad, sad comment.”

And then he took up the political excavation.

Some people “on the other team,” he said Thursday, “threatened to delay government spending and put the country’s credit history at risk for irritation over vaccination demands.

“Understand,” he added.

This was a slight departure in Biden’s speech, which otherwise had a largely bipartisan tone. But it served as fresh evidence that, after months of being awake, Biden and his allies are increasingly ready to strike back, seeing Republicans as the true obstacle to the country’s recovery from the pandemic.

The Democratic president’s efforts to tackle the coronavirus have long sparked a string of flamboyant statements, legal troubles and more than a few taunts from his predecessor. But Biden was elected because of the promise of depoliticizing the virus response and following science, so backlash was not seen as an option early on.

Biden Launches COVID-19 Winter Booster, Test Campaign

Biden’s aides in the early months of his presidency insisted that he ignore criticism from Republicans, arguing that the response would further add politics to the vaccination campaign and undermine his overall efforts to get Americans to roll up their sleeves.

But now that public patience is running out amid the emergence of a new version of the omicron and threats from some GOP lawmakers to close down the government over vaccine demands, the White House and its allies are seizing on what they see as a political revelation.

“It’s clear that Republicans have decided that the fate of Biden’s presidency is tied to COVID,” said Democrat communications strategist Eric Schultz, who worked at the Obama White House. “And the Republicans have chosen to side with the virus.”

Now that most Americans are vaccinated, the White House is less worried about distracting people with such political talk. Biden’s aides now question whether some of the stubborn adversaries – more than 40 million adults – will receive the vaccine for any reason unless their employers demand it, minimizing the risk of backlash.

In August, Biden discovered that some Republican governors had banned the introduction of masks in schools.

“If you’re not going to fight COVID-19, at least stay away from anyone trying,” he said. “You know, we are not going to sit idly by when the governors try to block and intimidate the educators who protect our children.”

Recently, Biden’s aides have become more willing to openly denounce Republican lawmakers, whom they see as an obstacle to his efforts to combat the pandemic.

“These supporters of the former president are in favor of shutting down the federal government so that 20% of the population who refuse to get vaccinated or tested can freely infect their colleagues, our children, by filling hospitals – that’s what they advocate for,” said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki at a briefing this week. “They want to close down the government in order to convince people to validate it in society. So I don’t think it should be lost for us. “

Privately, White House officials have been even more outspoken, accusing Republicans of promoting policies that will prolong the pandemic, close schools and claim more lives.

Some Republican lawmakers, for their part, have expressed their opposition to vaccine regulations as they seek to force voters to choose between vaccinations and work, although Biden’s order offers an alternative to vetting for most private sector employees. Legislators are looking for legislation that would prevent agencies from obtaining funding to fulfill their mandates.

“In recent days, I have heard from hundreds of Utah residents who are concerned about job loss – not just job loss in general, not only abstractly, but specifically because of these mandates,” said Senator Mike Lee. -Utah.

Democrats portray vaccine demands as critical to protecting the health of Americans during the pandemic, describing Republican efforts as “anti-vaccine”.

“How do they explain to the public that they are shutting down the government because they don’t want people to get vaccines?” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday when the fate of the government spending bill was uncertain. “Why don’t you ask them? This is so stupid. “

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned that if Republicans block the funding bill, “Republicans will refuse to vaccinate.”

Later Thursday, the Senate passed a temporary spending bill to avoid a short-term stoppage after leaders defused a standoff over vaccine demands.

Biden’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has long been a strong point of his public approval ratings, but it has dropped in recent months as the delta variant raged on and cases of illness and death increased. More than 780,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 to date.

An AP-NORC poll in October showed that 54% of Americans said they approve of Biden’s work in the wake of the pandemic, higher than his overall approval rating and much higher than his economic approval of 48% and 41 % respectively.

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However, as recently as July, before the delta option appeared, 66% of respondents approved Biden on COVID-19, and 59% approved of his work in general.

The White House appears to be increasingly looking to regain its top position on COVID.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates took to Twitter on Thursday to play out a Chamber of Commerce statement in support of the president’s assertion that “no business should close this winter due to COVID-19.”

Bates tweeted: “Tough break for Republicans: like us, businesses are also against the pandemic, and they just don’t want it to kill more Americans and jobs.”

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