WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden outlined his efforts to fight inflation and lower consumer prices in a speech from the White House on Tuesday, looking to address a top concern of voters ahead of the midterms.
"I believe inflation is our top economic challenge right now," said Biden, who did not announce any new policy initiatives.
Inflation, which is at its highest levels in decades, has become a top concern for voters. Republicans have sought to blame Biden's policies for rising prices, while the president has attributed inflation to pandemic-related shutdowns that disrupted the global supply chain, along with Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"Those two major contributors to inflation are both global in nature," Biden said. "That’s why we’re seeing historic inflation in countries all over the world."
In a glimpse of a favored White House midterm message, Biden sought to contrast his agenda with that of Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. Scott, who chairs the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, released an 11-point plan in February for GOP candidates to run on in the upcoming midterms. The plan calls for raising federal income taxes on many Americans, banning debt ceiling increases unless America is at war, and requiring all federal programs to expire every five years, unless they are renewed by Congress.
His plan put him at odds with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who opposes parts of Scott’s agenda that would increase income taxes on lower-income Americans and sunset Social Security and Medicare within five years.
“Republicans in Congress are so deeply committed to protecting big corporations and CEOs that they’d rather see taxes on working American families,” Biden said.
Asked about Biden going after his 11-point plan and Biden say he would be putting it up on the White House website, Scott stood by it. “I hope he puts it up on his website,” he told NBC News. “He has no idea how to fix anything.”
Biden blamed Republicans aligned with former President Donald Trump for blocking policy efforts that he said would have helped lower costs.
"Let me say this carefully: I never expected the ultra-MAGA Republicans, who seem to control the Republican Party now, to have been able to control the Republican Party," Biden said. "I never anticipated that happening."
Biden said he had no timeline for when inflation would subside, citing economists who say it will slow by the end of the year, though others say it could continue to rise in 2023.
The president discussed the rising gas prices that have been stoked in part by Russia's war in Ukraine — what he has called "Putin's price hike" — and his effort to lower them by releasing 1 million barrels of oil per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
“They have no plan, they have no plan to bring down energy prices today, no plan to get us to a cleaner energy independent future,” Biden said of Republicans.
Biden called on Congress to pass measures included in the Build Back Better plan that Democrats were unable to advance last year because of opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Those include lowering child care and long-term care costs, funding the construction of 1 million affordable homes through tax credits, and passing clean energy and vehicle tax credits that would allow families to save money on their utility bills.
“I want every American to know I’m taking inflation very seriously and it is my top domestic priority,” Biden said.
Meanwhile, some economists are warning about a possible recession, though many say it's not imminent or inevitable. To try to slow inflation, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates last week by 0.5 percent.
Despite the high costs facing Americans, the U.S. labor market has remained strong, with the latest report from April showing that 428,000 jobs were added that month — a greater increase than predicted. Wages have also risen, while the unemployment rate stands at 3.6 percent.
CORRECTION (May 10, 2022, 9:10 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated McConnell’s title. He is the Senate minority leader, not its majority leader.