WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden will use a speech on inflation on Tuesday as an attempt to turn his Democratic Party’s top political liability ahead of congressional elections later this year into an attack on his Republican opposition.
As Americans worry about a spike in inflation that has pushed annual consumer prices more than 8% higher, the president will highlight his administration’s steps to curb inflation including the release of oil from strategic petroleum reserves and pressure on companies to return record-high profits to consumers in the form of lower prices.
He is not expected to announce new policy measures in the speech, which comes a day before new consumer price data is expected to show inflation remained elevated through April.
But Biden is expected to sharpen his attacks on Republicans six months before the Nov. 8 congressional elections, where Democrats are hoping to retain control of the Senate and House of Representatives.
“Republicans love to use inflation as a political talking point, but does anyone have a clue what their plan is to bring down prices?” said a White House official who asked not to be named.
Demand stimulated by government spending and savings accumulated during the COVID-19 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 US 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.