Washington Watch: Republicans blast ‘incompetent’ Democrats over inflation, while Biden doubles down on Build Back Better plan

News that the U.S. inflation rate hit a nearly 40-year high last month landed like a bombshell in Washington, where Republicans were quick to bash the Biden administration over higher prices and Democrats doubled down on the president’s major social-spending bill.

The cost of living climbed again in November and drove the rate of inflation to a 39-year high of 6.8%, putting more pressure on households as they confront rising prices of gas, food, cars, rent and so forth.

See: U.S. inflation rate swells to 39-year high of 6.8%. Americans paying higher prices for almost everything

Inflation is proving to be a persistent political challenge for the White House and congressional Democrats, who are facing tough midterm elections next year. President Joe Biden’s party argued before the data was released that it’s backward looking and doesn’t capture some improvements in prices in the last few weeks. Still, that didn’t stop the GOP from piling on, sharpening attacks as they eye gains in Congress.

“Prices keep rising and all Democrats want to do is spend trillions more in taxpayer money. Democrats created the inflation crisis crushing American families and are too incompetent to fix it,” said Michael McAdams, National Republican Congressional Committee communications director.

The White House, meanwhile, is promoting Biden’s Build Back Better proposal as helping ease costs for Americans, as the plan remains under intense debate in Congress.

“The challenge of prices underscores the importance that Congress move without delay to pass my Build Back Better plan, which lowers how much families pay for health care, prescription drugs, child care, and more,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is calling for a pause on that same bill, saying it will just stoke more inflation.

“Year-on-year CPI inflation is at its highest in almost 40 years for the headline index and over 30 years for the core index,” said Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at Maria Fiorini Ramirez, Inc. “This is certainly complicating Biden administration efforts to enact enormous social spending legislation, and fairly or not, is weighing on public opinion regarding the competence of Democratic Party management of the economy.”

The House Progressive Caucus also argued that Build Back Better will lower costs for families, and urged its passage, as did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.

“The Build Back Better Act is the most significant cost-cutting and inflation-fighting measure in recent history — taking concrete action to lower everyday costs, slash middle-class taxes and put more money in working families’ pockets,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

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