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The Washington Post Craps on the White House's Latest 'Gotcha' Attack on the GOP

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

After a year of demonizing police, covering for Black Lives Matter and antifa rioters, and outright calling for the defunding of police, Democrats happened on an idea: Why don’t they just flip the Republican talking point that Democrats are trying to defund the police on its head? “Defund the police” didn’t work out to be all that popular, after all.

Here’s the thing: Democrats can’t make this work. Not at all. And The Washington Post called them out on it.

The Post focused on two quotes from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Cedric Richmond, senior advisor to President Joe Biden.

Referring to the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, Psaki said, “That was voted into law by Democrats just a couple of months ago. Some might say that the other party was for defunding the police; I’ll let others say that, but that’s a piece.”

Richmond proved far more brazen. “Let’s talk about who defunded the police. When we were in Congress last year trying to pass … an emergency relief plan for cities that were cash-strapped and laying off police and firefighters, it was the Republicans who objected to it. And in fact, they didn’t get funding until the American Rescue Plan, which, our plan allowed state and local governments to replenish their police departments and do the other things that are needed. So look, Republicans are very good at staying on talking points of who says ‘defund the police,’ but the truth is, they defunded the police,” he claimed on “Fox News Sunday.”

It seems particularly rich that Democrats are now trying to pin the very slogan that they and their allies chanted last year on their political opponents. The Post‘s Salvador Rizzo wasn’t letting them have it.

“Although Republicans all opposed Biden’s coronavirus relief package, no one voted to cut, or defund, anything. Rather, Democrats proposed $350 billion in emergency funds for state and local governments, and Republicans voted against those extra funds. That’s not a reduction,” Rizzo noted.

Furthermore, while the American Rescue Plan did direct $350 billion of the $1.9 trillion to state and local aid, that money was not directly earmarked toward police in particular. While Biden announced that he was urging crime-ridden cities to use the funds “to hire police officers needed for community policing and to pay their overtime,” this kind of language never made it into the bill.

Congress approved $350 billion in question to fund “states, territories, and tribal governments to mitigate the fiscal effects stemming from the covid-19 public health emergency.” The law designated those funds to “respond to the covid-19 emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality; provide premium pay to essential workers or provide grants to employers of essential workers during the covid-19 emergency; provide government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue of such state, territory, or tribal government due to the covid-19 emergency; or make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.”

Police officers did fit one category of “essential workers” in the law, but the law does not explicitly mention them, while it does mention “impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality” and “water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.”

While advocating for the bill, Democrats said these funds would help shore up local services such as “health care workers, police, fire, transportation, EMS, teachers,” but it also seemed far more likely that state and local governments would use this money to shore up their bloated pension systems, rather than to hire new cops on the beat.

The White House scrambled to defend the claims, and one of the justifications appeared to give The Washington Post some pause. The fact-checker only gave the White House “three Pinocchios” instead of four because Republicans did actually try to cut the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program, which provides federal funds for local police departments to bolster their ranks. Biden’s budget proposes more than double the COPS funding that former President Donald Trump’s budget did.

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It seems that Republicans, who alone in Washington seem to care — just a tad — for fiscal sanity, voted to trim the COPS program over a period of years. Meanwhile, Democrats have repeated claims about “systemic racism” in police departments and covered for violent rioters “peaceful protesters” who attacked police relentlessly, especially last summer.

The White House isn’t fooling anyone. Sure, Biden hasn’t adopted the “defund the police” rallying cry and he hasn’t slashed funding for cops, but he has echoed the movement that is demonizing the police and covering for violent rioters.

No amount of political chicanery can save him from that.