Biden calls inflation his top domestic priority, blaming Republicans for lacking a plan
- President Joe Biden said fighting inflation is his top domestic priority.
- Republicans see inflation as their best issue for this year’s midterm elections.
- Biden accused Republicans of not having a plan to lower prices.
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden sought Tuesday to ease fears over inflation, promising that tackling rising prices is his top domestic priority and accusing Republicans of having no plan to offer Americans relief.
“They don’t want to solve inflation by lowering your costs,” Biden said at the White House. “They want to solve it by raising your taxes and lowering your income.”
He called inflation the nation's top economic challenge, blaming the twin challenges of a "once-in-a-century pandemic" and the war in Ukraine.
"I want every American to know that I’m taking inflation very seriously, and it’s my top domestic priority," Biden said.
Americans are grappling with the worst inflation in 40 years, fueled by surges in gas, food and rent costs.
The Labor Department reported last month that the consumer price index jumped 8.5% in March from 12 months earlier, the sharpest year-over-year increase since December 1981. Including the economic figures from March, inflation has notched 40-year highs for five straight months.
To curtail the spike in inflation, the Federal Reserve raised its key short-term interest rate by half a percentage point last week and signaled further increases. Top economists expect the Fed to lift the rate as high as 2.5% to 2.75% by the end of the year from its current 0.75%-to-1% range.
U.S. stocks surged after the interest rate hike but tumbled the next day and extended their losses through Monday.
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Republicans see inflation as their best issue for this year’s midterm elections, pointing to polls that show inflation and the economy are top of voters’ minds. A majority of adults surveyed by CNN at the end of April said Biden's policies hurt the economy. Eight in 10 said the government isn't doing enough to combat inflation.
“The more Joe Biden talks about inflation, the better it is for Republicans,” said Chris Hartline, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm for Senate Republicans.
The committee is headed by Florida Sen. Rick Scott, whose governing plan if Republicans take control of Congress has become a prime target of Democrats – despite the fact that it has not been embraced by other GOP leaders in Congress.
In particular, Biden attacked Scott’s assertion that all Americans should pay some income tax and all laws should be renewed every five years. The White House argued the former would impose a “new minimum tax on the middle class” and the latter would put Medicare and other critical programs “on the chopping block every five years.”
“If Republicans want to repudiate his plan, they should go do that,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. “But otherwise, that continues to be what they’re running on.”
Steps the White House said Biden has taken to combat inflation include releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, working with the private sector to lower the cost of internet access for low-income Americans, freezing student loan payments and making more dependents eligible for premium subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.
Other proposals to lower costs on health care, child care and other common expenses have not advanced in Congress.
Republicans charge high spending by Democrats is behind rising prices. Every congressional Republican voted against last year’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that some said added too much kindling to a hot economy.
Biden rejected that argument, saying his policies helped, not hurt, the economy.
“It’s not because of spending,” Biden said. “We’ve brought down the deficit.”
The deficit has dropped largely because of expiring stimulus programs and higher inflation, according to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
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Contributing: Paul Davidson