Biden blames ‘Putin’s price hike,’ says gas prices shouldn’t depend on his ‘genocide’

President Joe Biden visited Iowa on Tuesday for the first time as president to announce new efforts to lower gas prices as the administration faces an 8.5% jump in the consumer price index from a year ago, which he attributes mostly to what he called “Putin’s price hike.”

“Your family budget, your ability to fill your tank, none of that should depend on a dictator declaring war and committing genocide on the other side of the world,” Biden said, sounding ad lib that the Russia’s actions in Ukraine amounted to “genocide” for the first time. The US government has an internal process to designate whether genocide has taken place, and other Western nations have not made the decision.

Biden was asked directly last week if he thought Bucha’s atrocities were genocide, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed, but he replied at the time: “No, I think it is. is a war crime”.

But on Tuesday he said: “Yes, I called it genocide. Because it has become increasingly clear that Putin is simply trying to eliminate the very idea of ​​being able to be Ukrainian. And the evidence is mounting. accumulate.”

The president also made brief remarks on the New York City subway shooting from Menlo, Iowa, before moving on to his plan to cut gas prices amid rising inflation.

The March CPI report released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics on Tuesday showed inflation was at its highest level in the US in more than 40 years as rising prices impacted consumers of the whole world. Prices rose 1.2% from just a month ago, the report said, raising concerns that if the Federal Reserve becomes more aggressive in raising interest rates to temper the inflation, it could trigger a recession.

“Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has driven up gasoline and food prices around the world,” Biden said. “So everything is going up. We saw that in today’s inflation data. Seventy percent of the price increase in March came from Putin raising gasoline prices.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki tried to preemptively cushion the blow from Monday’s report numbers. She said the White House expected a big difference between core inflation and headline inflation, pointing to the price of gas as the main reason for the discrepancy.

“Just as an example, since President Putin’s military build-up in January, average gas prices have increased by more than 80 cents. Most of the increase occurred in March, and gas prices have sometimes increased by more than a dollar from the level before the invasion. This increase of about 25% in prices will determine the rate of inflation tomorrow,” said Psaki.

To deal with those prices, Biden announced on Tuesday that he was granting a temporary emergency summer waiver to allow the sale of “E-15” — a gas blend with 15% ethanol, instead. of the usual 10%, which the White House says will lower gasoline prices by 10 cents a gallon. Usually E-15 is not sold in the summer as it is believed to add to smog.

“The Environmental Protection Agency plans to issue an emergency waiver to allow E15 gasoline that uses more locally grown ethanol to be sold across the United States this summer in order to increase the fuel supply,” Biden said. “It won’t solve all of our problems. But it will help some people and I’m committed to doing whatever I can to help. Even if it’s an extra buck or two in my pocket.”

But the move will have limited impact: Only 2% of gas stations nationwide carry E-15, mostly in the Midwest. The White House responded to a question from ABC News about whether the impact would be insignificant for Americans.

“Ultimately, it’s about giving Americans more options and more flexibility,” a White House official said ahead of the president’s remarks. “President Biden knows that every penny counts and that families will save money even after accounting for the difference in energy efficiency.”

Inflation and even gas prices rose even before the invasion of Ukraine. A new ABC News/Ipsos poll has found that Americans are more likely to lay ‘much’ or ‘much’ of the blame for price hikes on the policies of the Democratic Party (52%) and Biden (51%). ) than on Republican Party politicians (33%) and former President Donald Trump (24%). A strong majority of Americans (68%) also disapprove of Biden’s handling of gas prices.

Biden’s trip to Iowa comes with the midterm elections seven months away. It’s a state he spent a lot of time in midway through the 2020 campaign but ultimately lost to former President Donald Trump by nine points.

While his remarks are expected to focus on his administration’s actions to lower gas prices and the bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year, Biden may feel compelled to respond to Tuesday’s report, which showed that increases in gas, rent and food prices were the main contributors to inflation. for Americans. Gasoline prices rose 18.3% from a month ago and were a major contributor to inflation; other energy prices also increased. Food prices increased by 1% and home food prices by 1.5%.

Apart from food and energy, rent was the most important factor in the price increase. Airfares, home furnishings and operations, medical care and car insurance also contributed to inflation. Used cars and trucks fell 3.8% from a month ago.

The report, while in line with expectations, does nothing to temper concerns that the Federal Reserve has a tough job ahead of it to calm this inflation without triggering a recession.

ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky and Zunaira Zaki contributed to this report.

ABC News

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