Republican lawmakers took President Joe Biden to task on Wednesday as inflation hit a record 9.1% over the past year — the largest 12-month increase since 1981.
The GOP lawmakers say the White House's policies, including a multi-trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill, passed last year, and new regulations on businesses and energy producers are to blame.
"This destructive inflation has been caused by Democrats’ war on fossil fuels and massive deficit spending," said Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican. "Biden and his enablers in Congress must be stopped."
The sharp spike in prices was larger than even Wall Street and the nation's leading economic experts had predicted. Earlier this week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average estimated the inflation rate would likely be 8.8%.
Economic data from the Labor Department indicates that Americans are increasingly feeling the bite of inflation at the gasoline pump and in grocery stores.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which keeps track of inflation numbers, notes that gasoline prices are up more than 60% over the past year. Similarly, food prices have risen more than 10% over the past 12 months, with the price of chicken alone skyrocketing by more than 18%.
Biden and other administration officials have sought to downplay the spike in prices in recent weeks. Earlier this year, the president said rising costs were the result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
At the same time, the White House has sought to play up the fact that unemployment remains low, with the economy adding more than 327,000 jobs last month alone, and gasoline prices have decreased in recent weeks.
"While today’s headline inflation reading is unacceptably high, it is also out-of-date. Energy alone comprised nearly half of the monthly increase in inflation," Biden said in a statement. "Today’s data does not reflect the full impact of nearly 30 days of decreases in gas prices, that have reduced the price at the pump by about 40 cents since mid-June."
Republicans say the president's rhetoric does not match the reality facing most Americans. They point to recent polling showing Biden's approval rating at an all-time low and a large majority of Americans saying the country is headed in the wrong direction.
"Every week he's trying to blame someone different," said House GOP Whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican. "He tried blaming [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, then he tried blaming the oil companies, he actually blamed it on COVID at one point … the one thing he hasn't done is look in the mirror and blame himself."
GOP lawmakers were quick to link the new inflation numbers to the party-line spending package Senate Democrats are hard at work negotiating. The bill, which is estimated to run upwards of $1 trillion, would raise taxes on high-income earners and some business, while pumping hundreds of millions into the economy in new social welfare and climate change spending.
Republicans say the legislation is likely to exacerbate inflation. They compare it to the White House’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, signed into law in 2021, which flooded the economy with excess money when the nation was facing a supply chain crisis.
"A lot of this got started when Democrats decided to pass a partisan, party-line only, which flooded the zone with lots of dollars and created a situation with too many dollars chasing too many goods," said Senate Republican Whip John Thune, a South Dakota Republican. "And yet the prescription from Democrats is to spend more and tax more."
Talks on the party-line bill center are currently ongoing with Democrats working overtime to clinch the support of moderate Sen. Joe Manchin. Since the Senate is split 50-50 between both parties, the West Virginia Democrat's support is vital for the bill to become law.
Manchin, who walked away from the negotiations last year over concerns it would worsen inflation, is keeping mum in light of Wednesday's numbers.
"It is time for us to work together to get unnecessary spending under control, produce more energy at home and take more active and serious steps to address this record inflation that now poses a clear and present danger to our economy," he said. "No matter what spending aspirations some in Congress may have, it is clear to anyone who visits a grocery store or a gas station that we cannot add any more fuel to this inflation fire."
Republicans warn, however, that no matter what Democrats wind up doing the public will still hold them accountable at the ballot box this November.
"Democrats’ inflation crisis isn’t letting up anytime soon," said Torunn Sinclair, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Campaign Committee. "Voters will hold every Democrat responsible for leaving them worse off financially."