White House on defensive over surging inflation as Republicans lament 'paychecks wiped out' by high prices
White House argues inflation trending in right direction despite fastest price increases in 40 years
Republicans are on the attack and President Biden is on the defensive Wednesday after inflation surged yet again in December, with the consumer price index rising 7% between December 2020 and December 2021 – the fastest rate since June 1982.
"Back in July the Biden administration tried to brush off inflation concerns, suggesting it would all be just a 'transitory' inconvenience," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement.
"Despite the glaring warning signs, President Biden’s only strategy has been to spend more and do nothing to get ahead of these soaring costs," he continued. "Now, six months later, we know they were either misleading or completely incompetent in their assessment."
INFLATION SURGES 7% IN DECEMBER, HIGHEST RATE IN 40 YEARS
"Joe Biden is the president of high prices. It’s a new year, and the same old record-high Joe Biden inflation is hitting families in Wyoming," Senate Republican Conference Chair John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said. "We need to cut off unnecessary big-government spending and get Americans back to work."
President Biden downplayed the numbers Wednesday, arguing there are already signs that the situation is improving.
"Today’s report – which shows a meaningful reduction in headline inflation over last month, with gas prices and food prices falling – demonstrates that we are making progress in slowing the rate of price increases," Biden said in a statement. "At the same time, this report underscores that we still have more work to do, with price increases still too high and squeezing family budgets."
He added: "Inflation is a global challenge, appearing in virtually every developed nation as it emerges from the pandemic economic slump. America is fortunate that we have one of the fastest growing economies – thanks in part to the American Rescue Plan – which enables us to address price increases and maintain strong, sustainable economic growth."
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White House rapid response director Mike Gwin added: "Critical context for today's inflation data: Leading outside forecasters expect inflation to substantially moderate over the course of 2022 and beyond."
The worsening inflation hitting the pocketbooks of American families likely only made political conditions worse for the president's massive spending agenda.
Despite Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announcing in December that he is a firm "no" on President Biden's massive reconciliation spending bill, top congressional Democrats and the White House said they hadn't given up hope on passing something. But one of Manchin's biggest concerns was the effect a big spending bill would have on inflation.
Manchin's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said people shouldn't put much stock in the White House's predictions on inflation after it spent months earlier this year insisting it would abate.
"The White House spin on inflation is that ‘leading outside forecasters' expect it to decline," Cotton said. "The same forecasters who said inflation was transitory?"
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"President Biden's failed economic policies are clobbering hard working families and seniors," House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth ranking member Bryan Steil, R-Wis., added. "While the White House touts ‘wage gains,’ workers are seeing their paychecks wiped out by higher prices and skyrocketing inflation."
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The hot inflation is also raising alarm bells at the Federal Reserve, which has penciled in at least three interest rate hikes next year as policymakers seek to combat the hottest inflation in four decades.
FOX Business' Megan Henney contributed to this report.