(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden has weighed in on the Department of Labor report out Friday that shows the consumer price index, which measures the prices consumers pay for a market basket of everyday goods and services, climbed at its fastest rate in nearly 40 years.
“It matters to people when you’re paying more for gas, although in some states we’ve got the price down below three bucks a gallon. But the point is, it’s not gone down quickly enough, but I think it will,” Biden said at the end of his remarks closing out the Summit for Democracy.
The White House — trying to walk a fine line — acknowledged that Americans’ wallets are taking a hit but that the increased prices will not last forever. The Biden administration also used the new numbers as an opportunity to tout the “Build Back Better” social spending plan, which it says will ease the financial squeeze many are facing despite good signs from other economic indicators.
“Every other aspect of the economy is racing ahead. It’s doing incredibly well. We’ve never had this kind of growth in 60 years,” Biden said.
The president pointed to his social spending agenda as a way bring down the costs of child care and other expenses addressed in the bill.
“Economists think is going to, in fact, diminish the impact on inflation… because it’s reducing costs for ordinary people,” Biden said, noting that the plan does not have bipartisan support.
Asked how he planned to get holdout Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on board given his concerns over inflation, Biden said he would be speaking with the senator early next week, but once again stressed his plan would help combat rising prices, not add to it.
“The reason for the inflation is that we have a supply chain problem that is really severe, and it’s causing a significant increase in prices and things that, in fact, are hard to get access to. Because at the bottom, the bottom of it all, is COVID. COVID has had a serious impact on the ability to produce a whole lot of necessary products, particularly those imported from the Pacific and other places,” he said.
While Biden painted an optimistic view that inflation will soon be waning, White House press secretary Jen Psaki clarified that the White House is still deferring to the Federal Reserve about official predictions.
The new inflation numbers came the same day The Congressional Budget Office released a modified estimate of the cost of Biden’s “Build Back Better” bill that finds that if all proposed programs were made permanent rather than temporary, the bill would add $3 trillion to the deficit over 10 years.
That, however, is not what Democrats are proposing in the bill. The House-passed version of the “Build Back Better” bill, which is expected to be modified by the Senate, sunsets many programs well before the 10-year period. The Child Tax Credit, for example, would only be extended for one additional year. As currently drafted, the CBO found the House-passed version of the bill adds $0.2 trillion to the deficit.
This modified score comes in response to a request from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo.
Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer dismissed the new estimate in a statement, slamming Republicans for “requesting fake scores based on mistruths”.
“Republican-requested fake CBO score does not take into account the fact that President Biden and Democrats have committed that any extensions of the Build Back Better Act in the future will be fully offset, therefore ensuring BBBA will not increase the deficit,” Schumer said. “The GOP’s fake CBO score request is nothing more than a partisan attempt to mislead the public.”
Still, the modified score could prove a huge hurdle for Senate Democrats working to win over Manchin.
Graham said in a press conference that Manchin was “stunned” when the two discussed the new report this morning.
“I talked to him this morning, he was stunned,” Graham said. “I think he felt vindicated in that his concerns were legitimate.”
For its part, The White House brushed off concerns over the new score. Still, Psaki acknowledged there was still work to be done to earn the support of Manchin, whose vote is pivotal to passing the bill. She added that the president would make his case to the senator that now is the time to act.
“You know, you saw every single Republican in the house vote against Build Back Better. What were they voting against? Yes they were voting against the president’s agenda. They were also voting against lowering costs. They were voting against lowering costs for child care, lowering costs for elder care, lowering costs for health care,” Psaki said.
“I think the case he will make is that this is exactly the time to pass this bill and move it forward so that we can lower costs for the American people on all of those topics, including insulin in areas that really pinch — force American families to pinch pennies,” she added.
ABC News’ Catherine Thronbecke contributed to this report.
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