A Fox News Poll released last week showed that 85% of Americans are either extremely concerned about inflation or very concerned. That compares to 72% who are concerned about the coronavirus pandemic, 58% concerned about voter suppression and 59% concerned about the southern border.
But while members of Congress and the White House are spending significant time pushing proposed solutions to those problems, there's been less work on legislation or policy specifically aimed at inflation, which is the highest it's been in decades.
"Where's the war room on the cost of living, right?" Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., said on NBC's "Meet the Press" this week. "Where's the task force on inflation? Where's the energy around that because that's what everyone is talking about when I sit down with them."
According to one Senate GOP aide, Congress has already taken the first big step to fixing inflation.
"Killing BBB?" the aide said when asked about the best way for Congress to address the issue.
BBB is shorthand for Democrats' massive reconciliation spending bill, the Build Back Better Act, which appears dead in the water due to opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Manchin and Republicans argued the trillions of government spending in the bill would supercharge the inflation the U.S. is already dealing with.
A midwestern House GOP aide, meanwhile, said because the causes of inflation are so "multifaceted" there's no one action Congress can take to stop it.
The aide said "blocking and tackling bad policies" is about all members of Congress concerned about inflation can do at this point.
These include, the aide said, school closures that make it hard for parents to work; extra unemployment benefits that discourage work; stay-at-home policies which led to saving, then overspending, which stretched the supply chain; and more. That's in addition to government spending proposals like the BBB or the American Rescue Plan Democrats forced through Congress last year.
Former President Donald Trump also oversaw massive spending in the first year of the pandemic, including two rounds of stimulus checks to all Americans.
Of potential solutions, the midwestern House GOP aide said, Republicans may propose a bill later this year to "to roll back young, able-bodied, no dependents' eligibility for several social safety net programs." But it's not clear Congressional Democrats would go along with that idea, and the bill isn't going to be ready for months.
The House-passed Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which sailed through the chamber 364-60, could also help with supply chain issues, the aide said. But it's not clear when or if the Senate will take up that bill.
Democrats, meanwhile, say they have a suite of policies that could reduce inflation. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., argued that one of them is the BBB, which Democrats say will use government controls to bring down prices of many goods and services. Its child care policies could also help get parents back to work, Democrats say. But that bill is effectively dead.
"I’m deeply concerned by inflation, which is driven by the continuing pandemic and its disruption to supply chains. We've got to tackle the cost drivers that are bedeviling families and show them we're paying attention," Kaine told Fox News.
"I’m pushing to pass initiatives from the Build Back Better bill that will reduce the cost of health care, prescription drugs, education, child care, housing, and more," he said. "I’m also pushing to pass the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act and implement the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which will help mitigate supply chain issues and increase domestic productive capacity."
The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, formerly the Endless Frontier Act, passed the Senate with a bipartisan majority last year. It's meant to help the U.S. compete with China. But it's been stalled amid a disagreement with the House on what exactly should be in the bill.
Top House Democrats introduced a second iteration of their China competition bill Tuesday, called the America COMPETES Act. Among the policies in that Democrats say could reduce inflation is funding to combat the global chip shortage.
A compromise between the two chambers on China competition and chips may be the most realistic action Congress could take on inflation this year. But House Republicans are already warning that if the final product looks too much like what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., released this week, there may not be any GOP votes for it.
"We have been in talks with House and Senate committees of jurisdiction for weeks, trying to put together a bipartisan bill that could pass Congress. Rather than allowing those talks to play out, Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats have decided to torpedo the chance of a bipartisan, bicameral bill to confront the generational threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party," House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said in a statement.
The White House, meanwhile, is blaming big businesses and a "lack of competition" for increased prices. It's specifically singled-out the meat industry in recent months, although President Biden blamed a broader swath of industries in remarks this week, including "big tech, big Pharma, the list goes on."
At the same event, where he announced an executive order to crack down on allegedly anti-competitive practices, Biden appeared to admit inflation may hurt Democrats this fall.
Asked whether inflation is a political liability before the midterms, Biden sarcastically responded: "No, it's a great asset. More inflation. What a stupid son of a b****."
Fox News' Aishah Hasnie and Peter Doocy contributed to this report.