By Kate Sullivan, CNN
President Joe Biden on Tuesday blamed the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine for troubling economic news as he and his administration went on the defensive over mounting inflation and rising gas prices.
The President’s speech at the White House was advertised by his advisers as being focused on his plan to fight inflation. While Biden did speak about inflation, he spent a significant amount of time attacking Republicans for a plan put out by the Senate GOP’s campaign arm than laying out any new policies that would reverse a series of troubling economic developments.
The country is facing the worst inflation in 40 years and a CNN poll conducted by SSRS showed fewer than a third of Americans think his party’s economic visions aligns with their own. Gas prices have also jumped to fresh record highs, with AAA reporting on Tuesday that the national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is at $4.37 — a 17-cent spike in the past week. Just last week, the Federal Reserve recently announced it was taking aggressive action to lower inflation and is raising interest rates by a half-percentage point — something it hasn’t done in 22 years.
The administration has attempted to pin the blame for rising gas prices and economic uncertainty on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine. Biden said during his speech that combating inflation is his top domestic priority and acknowledged that “families all across America are hurting because of inflation.”
Much of the remarks were spent blasting Republicans and their midterm message. In the past week, Biden has ramped up his rhetoric against Republican and argued the far-right has overtaken the party as he tries to sharpen the contrast between his administration’s policies and what Republicans are proposing. It’s a significant messaging shift for a President who campaigned on unifying the country and turning down the political temperature and comes as Democrats scramble for an effective campaign message six months out from Election Day.
The President has recently seized on a plan put forward by Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the head of Senate Republicans’ campaign committee, as a primary example that leaders on the right fit into former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” mold. The President is expected to continue hammering Scott’s proposal during his Tuesday morning speech on his administration’s efforts to lower costs for Americans and bring down inflation.
Scott’s plan, Biden argues, would raise taxes on working-class Americans and sunset programs like Social Security and Medicare. It includes several Trumpian proposals and even calls for completing a border wall and naming it after the former President. GOP leader Mitch McConnell has publicly rebuked the plan and wants to keep the focus on criticizing the Biden administration heading into the midterms.
A White House official previewing Biden’s remarks said Monday that fighting inflation is the Biden’s “top economic priority,” adding the administration is “laser-focused on doing everything we can to bring down prices.” In contrast, the official said Monday, Republicans have used inflation as “a political talking point,” but have failed to materially reduce costs for Americans.
In addition to blasting Scott’s plan, the President argued on Monday that Republicans are “coming for” voting rights and want to ban books. He argued the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade showed that “so much more” is at stake in addition to abortion rights.
“We gotta start talking more about what these guys are talking about,” Biden said of Republicans and their agenda at a Democratic fundraiser on Monday night, according to a readout of the event.
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CNN’s Donald Judd and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.