Campaigning in New Mexico, Biden aims to ease voters’ economic anxieties
President Biden spent much of Thursday stumping for his party in New Mexico, where he touted his administration’s policies, implored voters to back Democrats and warned that next week’s elections will shape the nation for the next 20 years.
“This is not a referendum,” Biden said. “It’s a choice between two vastly different versions of America.”
The midterm elections that will determine control of Congress are just days away, and Biden’s party is facing strong headwinds. Voters remain concerned about high rates of inflation and the potential for a recession. Incumbent presidents’ parties usually lose seats in midterm elections, and polling indicates that Republicans are likely to retake the House of Representatives. Close Senate races in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania make the fight for power in the upper chamber a toss-up.
In remarks at a Democratic rally and an Albuquerque community college, Biden sought to remind voters of his administration’s accomplishments thus far, including nominating the first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court, pardoning individuals convicted on federal marijuana possession and forgiving some federal student loans. Biden said he would ban assault weapons and pass a law to protect access to abortion nationwide if voters help expand Democrats’ majority in Congress.
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In remarks at a rally, Biden sought to dispel worries about a potential economic downturn, touting low jobless numbers . But voters’ outlook on the economy has darkened. In a late October poll from the Wall Street Journal, 71% of individuals surveyed said the American economy is going in the wrong direction, while 54% thought Biden’s policies had a negative effect on the economy.
The Federal Reserve has yet to make substantial progress on curbing inflation, Jerome Powell, the central bank’s chair, said this week, leaving investors worried that a recession is on the horizon. Economic anxiety has given Republicans an edge in many congressional races. GOP candidates have deemed Biden ill-equipped to steer the nation away from a recession and have pushed back on the president’s glossy look on the economy.
“Biden wants to brag about the economy but families know better,” tweeted Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. “57% of Americans say their financial situation is getting worse — that’s nothing to brag about.”
During the rally in Albuquerque, Biden said that falling gas prices, which had soared after the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, have given Americans financial relief. The national gas price average spiked to $5.016 per gallon of regular unleaded in June, according to the American Automobile Assn. This week, the average was down to $3.778 per gallon of regular. Biden has lambasted oil executives for the high costs, insisting they are overcharging Americans in an effort to boost their profit margins.
In Albuquerque, he blasted oil companies for high costs at the pump, saying they were overpricing gas in an effort to raise their profit margins and giving profits to shareholders. “These outrageous profits are the windfalls of war,” Biden said. “Either invest in America or pay higher taxes.”
Biden touted the bipartisan infrastructure law that passed last year and warned voters against backing Republicans running for Congress, saying the GOP is shamelessly campaigning on undermining longstanding safety net programs, including Social Security.
Biden took care to highlight his plan for limited student loan debt forgiveness. In August, he announced he would cancel up to $10,000 for borrowers and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients. During remarks at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque, Biden said about 26 million borrowers had already filed applications with the Department of Education for debt relief.
The president said that if Republicans have their way in the courts, millions would still be saddled with debt and kneecapped from pursuing economic freedom.
“The student loan program is designed to give a little more breathing room,” Biden said.
Republicans have criticized Biden’s debt cancellation plan on the campaign trail, telling voters that Biden’s decision would add to the national debt and exacerbate inflation. At the community college, Biden said Republican outrage over the plan was “wrong” and “hypocritical,” noting that many GOP lawmakers had millions in pandemic-era loans forgiven by the federal government.
“Who the hell do they think they are?” Biden asked at the rally.
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Biden also blasted Republicans for trying to block his loan forgiveness plan in court.
A federal appeals court last month temporarily blocked the Department of Education from implementing the plan at the behest of six Republican state officials who argued that the president needed Congress’ explicit permission to cancel student loans on a wide scale. Biden had previously expressed doubt over his power as president to cancel student loans. After the plan was announced, the administration said the president has the authority to do so.
The Biden administration has said that the loan forgiveness plan would mostly benefit working- and middle-class families, as borrowers whose annual income is less than $125,000 are eligible. Biden also noted that his plan would also help lower monthly payments for undergraduate loans.
“I’m never going to apologize for helping working- and middle-class families as they recover from the economic crisis created by a pandemic,” Biden told a crowd of fewer than 50 people at the Albuquerque community college.
Although advocates have lauded Biden for providing relief, others criticized him for not going far enough. Progressives called for at least $50,000 in loans to be wiped so that Black borrowers, who are disproportionately saddled with student loan debt, could see substantial strides in their balances.
The Biden administration noted that more than 70% of Black undergraduate borrowers who are Pell Grant recipients are eligible for forgiveness up to $20,000. And 20 million borrowers, including nearly half of Latino borrowers, would see their debt zeroed out if the plan is upheld in court.
Republicans pumped about $50 million into campaign ads this cycle invoking, condemning or demonizing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose husband was bludgeoned in an attack police say was politically motivated.
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