- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 10, 2021

After Republicans hammered “defund the police” rhetoric throughout the 2020 election, Democrats are now poised to flip the message back onto the GOP.

House Democrats are prepared to invoke Republicans’ voting records, including naysaying on the Jan. 6 commission, to prove the party is not as pro-law enforcement as they claim.

Ammar Moussa, rapid response director for the Democratic National Committee, said Republican votes against the Jan. 6 commission and bills that offered federal funding for local law enforcement give the GOP a “credibility problem.”

“[Republicans] voted against the Jan. 6 commission which was a slap in the face of the Capitol Police officers who protected them,” Mr. Moussa said. “They voted against $350 billion for police officers and local first responders in the American Rescue Package. But, they still argue that Democrats are the ones who want to defund police.”

House Republicans picked up several seats held by moderate Democrats in 2020, which in part can be attributed to GOP messaging that broadly paints the Democratic Party as anti-police and socialist.

Mike Berg, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said the Democrats’ line of attacks does not stand up to even a cursory examination. 

He cited the scores of Democratic leaders who voted to cut funding to police departments and a Washington Post fact-check that gave the White House three out of four “Pinocchios” for claiming Republicans are defunding the police.

“Democrats across the country defunded the police and caused a crime wave,” Mr. Berg said. “No amount of spin will change that.”

Democrats also expect the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and the newly created select committee to investigate the attack will provide powerful messaging points against Republicans.

The riot has become a Democratic rallying cry that portrays the GOP as in league with violent extremists. Four pro-Trump demonstrators died during the riot and a Capitol Police officer who clashed with protesters later died of a stroke, which the medical examiner ruled death by natural causes. Two other Capitol Police officers died of suicide in the days following the riot.

“Republicans love to talk about being ‘back the blue’ and being pro-law enforcement, yet law enforcement was killed at the Capitol, and nobody wants to talk about that,” said Antjuan Seawright, a South Carolina-based Democratic strategist.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the select committee to investigate the events of Jan. 6, announced last week that the first hearing will feature witness testimony from Capitol Police officers who were on duty that day.

The special committee’s investigation could last until the Nov. 8, 2022 election and Republicans’ response to the riot will likely be a major campaign issue, a House Democratic aide told The Washington Times.

“They failed to show up for the Capitol Police officers and recognize them as heroes,” the aide said. “That’s something that’ll be used against them.”

The fight over backing the blue coincides with rising crime rates across the country.

A May poll conducted by Yahoo News/YouGov found that violent crime was the only issue that saw an uptick in the number of U.S. adults seeing it as a “very big problem.” 

The survey of more than 1,500 adults, found 49% of people found crime to be a top issue, up 1% from last year. The same poll, however, found race relations, the COVID-19 pandemic, and political correctness all decreased as a top priority for Americans, while the economy carried the same high level of concern.

The poll surveyed between May 24 to May 26 and had a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points.

Brad Bannon, a Democratic pollster and strategist, said crime could be among the top issues next year, and Democrats are likely going to make it a focus in their campaigns. 

Among the best defense, Mr. Bannon said, is by using Republicans’ rhetoric and records against them.

“Democrats will have to find a way to blunt Republican attacks on the crime issue,” Mr. Bannon said. “And one way of doing that is basically making the argument that every single Republican in Congress voted against a new law that provided hundreds of millions of dollars to police forces across the country.”

House and Senate Republicans voted against the American Rescue Plan, a signature COVID-19 relief plan touted by the Biden administration, which included $350 billion for state and local governments that could be used to shore up local law enforcement agencies.

The $1.9 trillion package, signed into law by President Biden in March, did not reduce funding for police but potentially made more funds available for police departments. Democrats now are saying Republicans who voted against the package also were voting against funding police.

In a June blog post citing a Fox News interview featuring questions on why Republicans rejected the package, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office posted a link titled ‘Fox News: House Republicans Voted to Defund the Police.’

Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser to Mr. Biden, also turned the message on Republicans while speaking of their votes against the package.

“Republicans are very good at staying on talking points of who says ‘defund the police,’” Mr. Richmond told Fox News in June. “But the truth is, they defunded the police.”

Mr. Richmond, who represented Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District before joining the Biden administration this year, was among several Democrats who blamed ‘defund the police’ rhetoric on lost seats. 

• Mica Soellner can be reached at msoellner@washingtontimes.com.

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