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Jen Psaki explains Biden’s use of ‘ultra-MAGA’ to describe ‘extreme’ wing of GOP

White House press corps has questioned whether Biden’s new sharper tone against GOP hurts bipartisanship chances

John Bowden,Andrew Feinberg
Tuesday 10 May 2022 22:27 BST
Biden hits out at Republican Senator who calls him 'incoherent'

The White House press secretary has explained the West Wing’s new use of the phrase “ultra-MAGA” to describe Republicans aligned with the party’s far-right bent, which she said was coined by the president himself.

Jen Psaki faced questions from reporters at her daily press briefing on Tuesday for the second day in a row regarding the term and its use by the president in criticism of the GOP.

She explained that it was “the president’s phrase” and what “struck him is how extreme some of the policies and proposals are” from Republicans.

"It's not just obviously putting at risk a woman's right to make choices about her own health care,” continued Ms Psaki. “It's also the obsession with culture wars and wars against Mickey Mouse and banning books."

Ms Psaki further addressed the president’s GOP rivals following a question from The Independent about Mr Biden’s reaction to the party’s increasingly caustic commentary describing his administration as an illegitimate “regime” and speaking of him as a tyrant.

She replied that Mr Biden’s view is that such critics “are freaking out in some capacity”, and said she does not think Mr Biden “spends a lot of time worried about people’s angry tweets or verbal … missives”.

“He spends time on laying out the contrast of what he’s going to present with what their plans are,” she added.

The White House and broader US political sphere is seeing the second week of nationwide outrage in response to a draft ruling leaked from the Supreme Court that revealed the court’s apparent plans to overtun Roe v Wade in the weeks ahead. Doing so would remove the court’s long-upheld precedent establishing the right to an abortion in the US and reverse decades of US policy on the matter; nevertheless, the court’s conservative majority appears poised to do so under the leadership of Justice Samuel Alito, who penned the draft majority opinion.

Protests have erupted around the country and accusatory rhetoric on the issue has reached a fever pitch; Democrats argue that Republicans are moving to ban abortion at the federal level and will take further steps to restrict things like contraception going forward; Republicans, meanwhile, have falsely accused some Democrats including the president of supporting the right to abortion services up until the moment of birth.

Some right-leaning commentators and even reporters have expressed palpitations about the sudden nature and intense tone of the backlash to the Court’s decision, and have condemned protests that have erupted near the homes of justices. Notably, the same tactics have been used by the anti-abortion right (along with much more invasive measures including, in some cases, violence) against abortion clinic staff and Democratic politicians for decades.

Republicans labeled Mr Biden a “tyrant” after he attempted to institute a nationwide vaccine mandate affecting large businesses last year; some, like Madison Cawthorn, have continued to use that language in recent weeks. Mr Cawthorn insultingly referred to the president as a “inept, geriatric despot” during a House floor speech in February.

Others, like Ohio’s GOP nominee for the US Senate JD Vance, have used similar rhetoric in hammering the Biden administration for an effort launched by the Department of Homeland Security to combat disinformation, particularly including Russian-led election interference. Many Republicans have referred to the effort as one to establish a so-called Soviet-style “Ministry of Truth” that would be involved in censorship of US citizens.

On Monday Ms Psaki insisted that the president could still push forward and seek a bipartisan path to passing some legislation in Congress despite the toxic political atmosphere.

"Well, the president's view is you can do both. He believes that there is work we can continue to do together,” she said of calling out GOP opponents while working with them in Congress.

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