Biden says GOP threatens cops, firefighters

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Republican opposition to the Obama administration’s spending plan threatens the lives of cops and firefighters, Vice President Joe Biden alleged today as he touted the White House’s new $447 billion jobs bill.

“The studies show that your physical health is in danger in direct proportion to how many folks you have behind you,” Biden told an audience of police officers, firefighters and local officials in Alexandria, Va. “So when you cut forces, and when you cut them significantly, it not only diminishes public safety, it diminishes your ability to stay safe,” he said in front of the City of Alexandria police station.

“Firefighters lose lives when you don’t have enough people at the fire,” he added.

“It’s sad and ironic that the so called ‘watchdog’ of stimulus funding, who oversaw the waste of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, is now using  desperate scare tactics to push for even more stimulus spending in the midst of a devastating debt crisis,” said a GOP aide. “The true danger to the livelihoods of our first responders is the nation’s struggling economy and government overspending which have forced state, local, and federal budgets to the brink.”

The incendiary statements were Biden’s second verbal gaffe of the day.

During a Thursday morning interview on WLRN radio in South Florida, Biden said candidly that voters in 2012 would judge President Obama by the state of the economy. “Right now, understandably, totally legitimate, this is a referendum on Obama and Biden, and the nature of the state of the economy,” he said.

The concession that the public will hold Obama responsible for the economy clashes with the president’s repeated efforts to blame the stalled economy on foreign developments and on former President George W. Bush.

Obama’s spending bill, which Republicans say is a fatally flawed, $447 billion, election-year stimulus package, asks Congress to appropriate $4 billion to pay additional policemen and $1 billion to pay firefighters. (RELATED: Biden voters should blame Obama, not Bush for economy)

Without that money, local governments will have to lay off more cops and firefighters, and also teachers, Biden said. The city of Flint, Mich., has laid off two-thirds of its 302-person police force, and Patterson, N.J. has fired one-quarter of its force, Biden said.

“Imagine what would happen here if we cut … down to 100 [cops]. How the heck are you going to do your job?” he said.

Each layoff “is a school teacher, a firefighter, a law enforcement officer — that is the definition of the middle class,” Biden added.

Many Republicans oppose the new jobs bill in its entirety, he claimed. “But we’re willing to negotiate with them, if they’re more willing to put more cops on the street,” he said.

Biden’s claim that Republican legislators threaten police officers’ lives followed his morning statement that the 2012 election would be a referendum on President Obama’s economic policy.

“What’s relevant is that we are in charge,” White House spokesman Jay Carney countered during the midday press-conference.

“The vice president did not say the blame for it it is ours. What he has said is that most Americans want their elected officials in Washington … to act to improve the situation. That’s what this president and vice president have been doing since they were sworn in,” Carney said.

Carney also tried to spin Biden’s use of “referendum,” which suggests that voters’ won’t consider the policies and qualifications of the GOP candidate. That clashes with Obama’s re-election strategy, which is to hammer GOP candidate with negative ads until voters conclude that Obama is a better, if flawed, choice.

In his radio interview, Biden immediately followed his “referendum” comment with the White House’s standard claim that that “it is soon going to be a choice.”

“The president fully expects that when people cast their ballots in November 2012, they will be making their decision based on his record, what he has done, what his accomplishments are, and obviously comparing that — and his vision for the future … to whoever is the candidate for the Republican party,” Carney said Thursday afternoon.

Biden’s comments at the Alexandria, Va. police station today matched Obama’s earlier statements. In a Sept. 27 speech in Denver, the president declared that “the last thing a governor like [Colorado gov.] John Hickenlooper wants to do is to lose teachers.  It’s unfair to our kids.  It undermines our future.  It has to stop.  You tell Congress:  Pass the American Jobs Act, and there will be funding to save jobs of thousands of Colorado teachers and cops and firefighters.

“It’s the right thing to do.  Pass the bill.”