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Biden names combating inflation and rising costs as his top domestic priority

President Biden laid out his plan to tamp down on inflation and rising costs in a speech at the White House Tuesday.
Manuel Balce Ceneta
President Biden laid out his plan to tamp down on inflation and rising costs in a speech at the White House Tuesday.

President Biden said fighting inflation is his "top domestic priority" in an economic speech at the White House Tuesday morning and laid out his administration's plans to lower prices on things like gas, which has hit a record-high cost.

Biden's remarks also targeted what he called "ultra-MAGA" Republicans. His sharpened attacks against the GOP are part of the administration's effort to draw a contrast with how Republicans are planning to handle inflation and rising costs, issues that are top-of-mind for voters ahead of the midterm elections this year.

"Republicans have offered plenty of blame," Biden said of gas prices, "but not a single solution to actually bring down the energy prices."

The president said that while the pandemic and Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine have contributed to inflation, lack of competition and inhibited access to materials is why prices have continued to go up.

"Capitalism without competition isn't capitalism, it's exploitation. So we're promoting competition for everything from internet services to meat processing," Biden said.

"All of my plan is focused on lowering costs for the average family in America, to give them just a little bit of breathing room," he said. The president, however, did not offer a timeline on when costs might start to go down.

Biden's remarks are part of a series of events this week where the president will continue to talk about lowering costs. On Wednesday, the president will travel to Illinois to visit a family farm and talk about food prices. He will also address the electrical workers at the IBEW convention in Chicago.

White House is targeting GOP's 'ultra-MAGA' messages

In his speech, Biden not only laid out his own agenda but repeatedly criticized Republicans', namely one fromRepublican Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Sen. Rick Scott of Florida. He charged that the GOP's "ultra-MAGA" plan increases taxes on Americans and gives tax cuts to billionaires.

"They don't want to solve inflation by lowering your costs, they want to solve it by raising your taxes and lowering your income," Biden said.

He pointed specifically to Scott's plan that asks every American to pay income tax. Currently, about half of Americans do not earn enough money to pay income taxes.

"If you look at what we've been doing the last few years is we're paying people not to work," Scott told NPR in March. "We've got people that have voted for government programs that could go work and aren't working. I'm not raising the tax rate. I'm not even raising their taxes. I'm saying we got to get these people to work so they're part of the system."

Biden called Scott's plan is part of the "ultra-MAGA agenda."

"Republicans in Congress are so deeply committed to protecting big corporations and CEOs that they'd rather see taxes on working American families and try to depress their wages than to take on inflation," Biden said.

Biden also attacked Scott's proposal to allow legislation to expire every five years unless Congress renews it, which would put legislation like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid up for a vote. The president called it "outrageous."

Inflation will dominate the midterm elections

Celinda Lake, a pollster who works with Democratic candidates, tells NPR that inflation will be a major point for voters in the midterm elections, but that people will start cementing their views on it in May and June.

She said it's important for Democrats to acknowledge inflation is a problem and repeatedly give assurances that they are doing everything that can be done on multiple fronts, on the executive and legislative levels, to lower prices. She also said it's important to point out that Republicans stand in the way of those efforts.

"People have no idea what the barriers are to those policies being implemented. It's very, very important to say that one of the things that's a problem here is that Republicans are not joining us," Lake said.

Lake says that right now, voters think Republicans are better on inflation, so Democrats have to some catching up to do.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.