President Joe Biden, under pressure to tame high inflation, sought to assure Americans on Tuesday that he understands what they are grappling with and that the Federal Reserve is working to resolve the top issue weighing on his administration.
At the same time, the Democrat went on the offensive, attacking the Republican agenda.
He slammed what he called "the ultra-MAGA plan put forward by congressional Republicans to raise taxes on working families, lower the income of American workers, threaten the sacred programs Americans count on like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and give break after break to big corporations and billionaires just like they did the last time they were in power."
With a spike in inflation having pushed annual consumer prices more than 8% higher, the president highlighted his release of oil from strategic petroleum reserves and pressure on companies to return record-high profits to consumers in the form of lower prices.
"I know that families all across America are hurting because of inflation," Biden said in a speech from the White House. "I want every American to know that I am taking inflation very seriously and it is my top domestic priority."
Biden said the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with supply chain issues and Russia's war on Ukraine, are to blame for the inflation spike, but that the Fed should, and will do its job to control it. The U.S. central bank raised interest rates by half a percentage point last week and is expected to roll out additional hikes this year.
The president did not announce new policy measures in the speech, which occurred a day before new consumer price data is expected to show inflation remained elevated through April.
Biden and top officials said multiple times as prices rose in 2021 that they expected inflation to be temporary, but it has persisted.
Demand stimulated by government spending and savings accumulated during the pandemic have been no match for creaky supply chains and labor shortages, prompting higher inflation globally.
That has created a political problem as American consumers stare down higher grocery and gas bills exacerbated by measures blocking Russian oil and gas after the invasion of Ukraine, an action that Russia calls "a special operation."
Fewer than half of U.S. adults - 44% - approve of Biden's handling of the presidency and they rate the economy as the country's most important problem, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll last week.
Republicans are working to capitalize on the issue in the congressional elections, promoting steps including loosening regulations on oil and gas producers as well as cutting some taxes and government spending. But the party has not endorsed any policy document outlining the steps they would take on inflation.
Biden has sharpened his attack on Republicans in recent days, including dismissing former President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" movement as extreme.
"Voters know that Republican-led states are leading in economic recovery and job creation, and will vote for Republicans and our proven agenda come November," said Emma Vaughn, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee.
Biden took aim at a 'Rescue America' proposal from Republican Rick Scott, the U.S. senator from Florida, that includes a federal minimum income tax which the White House says would cost middle-class families $1,500 a year.
Scott has said the plan is solely his own, despite his role as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of the Senate Republican caucus. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has rejected Scott's calls to tax Americans who pay no income tax and to sunset Social Security and Medicare entitlements.
This report contains material from Reuters.
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