WASHINGTON — Democrats this week began talking more aggressively about their own anti-inflation agenda after months of Republicans blaming them for the price hike in the first place.
The change in rhetoric is an acknowledgment that the Democrats’ big economic proposal, the Build Back Better Act, may be stalled for good and that the party must unite around a better message if it has any hope of defending its narrow majorities in Congress in November.
“Over the next month and beyond, members on our side will continue to deliver a number of solutions – solutions – that will reduce costs and leave more money in people’s pockets,” the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.).
When prices started to rise last year, most economists blamed the pandemic, saying supply chain issues were limiting supply and prices would ease soon enough. But inflation has persisted, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting last week that prices had risen 7.5% since last January – the highest inflation since 1982.
Schumer identified a number of ideas for dealing with higher prices, including working to reduce the cost of child care, prescription drugs and semiconductors — things Democrats have already talked about for months. A new idea on the table is to suspend the federal gas tax of 18 cents for the rest of the year. The proposal, however, was criticized as a “trick” by senators on both sides of the aisle.
“The Democrats are the ones who are laser-focused on showing where we are and coming up with solutions that are squarely aimed at the problem,” Schumer added Wednesday. “The Republicans seem to have no solution, just rhetoric.”
Republicans had a parcel of rhetoric, holding another in a series of press conferences lamenting the burden of inflation, especially on people on fixed incomes, like Social Security recipients whose monthly budgets remain the same all year even if their expenses increase.
“I’m glad Democrats are finally coming to the conclusion that this is a problem that needs to be fixed,” said Sen. John Thune (RS.D.). “They missed the mark a long time ago.”
Thune and his colleagues blame the US bailout for soaring inflation, saying the $1.9 trillion bill that boosted unemployment benefits and provided most Americans with $1,400 checks has ended up injecting too much money into the economy. There is a debate among economists on how much the extra money may have contributed to inflation.
But the GOP plenum press on inflation hit out at the Senate Banking Committee this week after every Republican senator on the panel boycotted a vote on President Joe Biden’s five nominees to the Federal Reserve, whose mission is to control inflation. ‘inflation.
Republicans said they only oppose one of Biden’s nominees, Sarah Bloom Raskin, over her record and her plea for the Fed to be more proactive in managing the financial risks posed by climate change. , as well as a suspected conflict of interest. Yet by failing to show up for the vote and providing a quorum, they prevented the five nominees from moving forward and filling the Fed’s board of directors, which is supposed to have seven members.
The boycott gave Democrats an opening to attack after months of attacks by Republicans and growing public concern about the threat of inflation and rising prices.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, accused Republicans of being “absent in the fight against inflation” because they refused to show up to vote.
“It affects inflation because we haven’t had a full Fed in place for nine years,” Brown told HuffPost. “The Fed is down to just four members now, and two of them aren’t in the jobs they were appointed to … and they have this very important meeting in March on inflation and they should have all seven members ready to go.”
But Republicans dismissed the idea that the Fed couldn’t handle monetary policy without all of its members being confirmed, pointing out that the Fed has already signaled that interest rate hikes are coming this year.
“They’ve already shown that they have the ability to deal with these issues and we’ve had some very serious issues with some of the candidates that have come forward,” Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), member of the banking committee. .
“I’d rather have an empty seat than have someone with a very serious ethical cloud over their head,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (RN.D.), who sits on the banking committee, said of of Raskin’s appointment. “Sometimes you have to make a decision to protect yourself from bad certainty.”
The Biden administration, for its part, has sought to address pricing and supply chain issues, with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg touting new programs to lure workers into the trucking industry and the president telling him. -even offering ideas to promote competition.
“We used every tool at our disposal, and while today reminds us that Americans’ budgets are being stretched in ways that create real stress at the kitchen table, there are also signs that we will succeed. to meet this challenge,” Biden said. said last week after the government signaled an increase in inflation.
For the most part, Democrats touted the good things about the economy, including low unemployment and rising wages. But consumer confidence has plummeted and voters told pollsters they trust Republicans more than Democrats on economic issues.