(The Hill) – President Biden urged lawmakers to pass his stalled economic agenda to stop inflation from “robbing” Americans of the benefits of a rapid economic recovery. During his State of the Union address Tuesday, March 1 the president sought to rally momentum behind a more than $1 trillion in proposed investments he said would help cool off the fastest rate of inflation in 40 years.
Biden touted the swift rebound from the depth of the pandemic-driven recession, including a record-breaking gain of 6.5 million jobs in 2021, economic growth of 5.7%, faster wage growth and the passage of a bipartisan infrastructure bill. The president also highlighted a series of investments in domestic manufacturing from major U.S. companies such as Intel and Ford, along with his efforts to bolster American supply lines.
Even so, Biden acknowledged “too many families are struggling to keep up with the bills” after prices rose 7.5% over the past 12 months, according to the Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index (CPI).
“Inflation is robbing them of the gains they thought otherwise they would be able to feel,” Biden said, pinning the rapid rise in prices on supply chain disruptions, labor shortages and successive waves of COVID-19.
“We have a choice. One way to fight inflation is to drive down wages and make Americans poorer,” he continued. “I think I have a better plan to fight inflation. Lower your costs, not your wages.”
Biden and Democrats leaders have argued for months that the president’s “Build Back Better” plan—the $1.75 trillion social services, infrastructure and climate bill at the center of his economic agenda—would help bring down costs through programs targeting prescription drug prices, child care affordability, lower taxes for low and middle-income families, and affordable housing.
But Biden’s plan has been on ice after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) announced in December he would not support the measure over concerns about rising inflation. The bill needs unanimous support from all 50 Democratic senators and a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Harris to pass the Senate through budget reconciliation, which cannot be filibustered by the Republican Senate minority.
GOP senators have also criticized Biden and Democratic lawmakers for seeking another trillion-plus spending bill after passing the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan economic stimulus bill along party lines in March 2021. Many economists have said the bill helped accelerate the pace of the recovery from the COVID-19 recession, but at the cost of higher inflation for longer than most analysts expected.
Rising prices have also taken a heavy toll on Biden’s approval ratings and voters views on his handling of the economy. Republican lawmakers have also seized on rising prices for food, energy, and shelter on Biden’s economic agenda as they attempt to retake control of the House and Senate.
Biden also urged senators to confirm five of his nominees to the Federal Reserve Board, who’ve been blockaded by Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee. Each of the 12 GOP members on the Banking panel blocked a vote last month to advance Biden’s Fed picks—including Fed Chair Jerome Powell, a Republican—after Democrats refused to delay action on one particularly controversial nominee.