Updated Feb 22, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Biden calls congressional Republicans "worse" than Strom Thurmond

President Biden, wearing a dark blue suit, white shirt and maroon tie.

President Biden in Los Angeles on Feb. 21, 2024. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images.

President Biden said Wednesday that Republicans in Congress are "worse" than prominent Senate segregationists including Strom Thurmond.

Why it matters: The comments mark an escalation in Biden's war of words against Republicans as the GOP-controlled House refuses to hold a vote on a Senate foreign aid bill.

What he's saying: "I've been a senator since '72. I've served with real racists. I've served with Strom Thurmond," Biden said at a fundraiser in San Francisco, according to a White House pool report.

  • "But guess what? These guys are worse. These guys do not believe in basic democratic principles," the president continued.
  • Biden said Thurmond did "terrible things," but "at least you could work with some of these guys," adding: "Time and again Republicans show they are the party of chaos and division."

The other side: House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) called the comment "outrageous" in a post on X.

  • "The least popular President to seek re-election is now so desperate and so underwater in the polls he's playing the race card from the bottom of the deck," he said.

Flashback: Biden landed in hot water in the 2020 Democratic primary for touting the "civil" working relationship he had with Senate segregationists like Thurmond and James Eastland.

State of play: Biden's comments come as Johnson is blocking a vote on a Senate bill to provide military aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

  • Biden and Johnson's office, in a chilly public exchange this week, both said they are open to meeting on the issue, with a spokesperson for the speaker saying the president "spent the past month denying a 1-on-1 meeting."
  • Republicans may also be hurtling towards a government shutdown as House GOP hardliners pressure Johnson not to give in to Democratic demands on spending.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comment from House Speaker Mike Johnson.

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