Biden goes defensive on inflation and gas prices as he tries to focus on Republicans

The president’s speech at the White House was heralded by his advisers as focusing on his plan to fight inflation. Although Biden talked about inflation, he spent a lot of time attacking Republicans for a plan presented by the head of the Senate GOP campaign arm rather than presenting new proposals to fight the worst inflation the country has. has known in 40 years.

Biden said tackling inflation was his top national priority and acknowledged that “families across America are hurting.”

“They’re frustrated. I don’t blame them. I really don’t blame them. We have a lot to do,” Biden said.

Asked by CNN’s Jeremy Diamond if his administration bears any responsibility for the rising prices, the president said, “I think our policies are helping, not hurting.”

During his speech, the President highlighted several steps his administration has already taken to lower gas prices, including ordering the release of one million barrels of oil per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and by adopting emergency measures to increase sales of biofuels during the summer. He also cited his proposals to raise taxes on billionaires and other super-rich Americans and lower prescription drug prices for millions of Americans by letting Medicare negotiate drug prices, saying these ideas could help lower inflation.

However, many of those proposals have stalled in Congress, and the president has expressed frustration that Democrats don’t have the 60 votes needed in the Senate to pass the kind of legislation he is proposing. The Senate is currently split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats.

“We control all three branches of government — well, we don’t really,” Biden said.

Biden’s speech comes at a time when bad economic news seems to be piling up and Democrats are worried about what that could portend for their chances midway through November.

A CNN poll conducted by SSRS showed that less than a third of Americans think the Democratic Party’s economic views align with their own. Gasoline prices also hit new records, with AAA reporting Tuesday that the national average price for a gallon of regular gas is $4.37 — a peak of 17 cents last week. Last week, the Federal Reserve announced it was taking aggressive action to reduce inflation and was raising interest rates by half a percentage point, something it hadn’t done since. 22 years old.

The administration has repeatedly blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for rising gas and energy prices and his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and the president again called it a ” Putin’s price hike”.

Biden spent much of the speech repeatedly hammering at “Republican MAGA” and the extreme “ultra-MAGA” policies he says they would adopt if the party won control of Congress in the midterm elections. .

“Americans currently have two paths to choose from that reflect two very different sets of values,” Biden said.

Over the past week, Biden has stepped up his rhetoric against Republicans and argued that the far right has overtaken the party as he tries to sharpen the contrast between his administration’s policies and what Republicans are proposing. It’s a significant message shift for a president who has campaigned to unify the country and lower the political temperature and comes as Democrats scramble for an effective campaign message six months from Election Day.

The president seized on a plan presented by Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida, head of the Senate Republicans’ campaign committee, as the prime example that right-wing leaders are fitting into the ‘Make America Great Again’ mold of former President Donald Trump.

Scott’s plan, Biden argues, would raise taxes on working-class Americans and end programs like Social Security and Medicare. It includes several Trumpian proposals and even calls for completing a border wall and naming it after the former president. GOP leader Mitch McConnell has publicly chastised the plan and wants to continue to criticize the Biden administration as it nears the midpoints.

“My plan is to cut everyday costs for hard-working Americans. And cut the deficit by asking big business and the wealthiest Americans not to price gouge and pay their fair share of taxes. “, said Biden. “The Republican plan is to raise taxes on middle-class families, let billionaires and big corporations off the hook as they boost profits, raise prices and reap profits at record highs. And it really is as simple as that.”

This story was updated with additional developments on Tuesday.

CNN’s Donald Judd and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.

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