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President Joe Biden on Monday sought to tamp down concern about spiraling prices that threaten to dent the US economic recovery, saying the current inflation rise is “temporary” and not a long-term problem.
He also said one of the best ways to keep the American economy on track was for Congress to greenlight additional federal spending in the form of a major bipartisan infrastructure package, which faces a looming deadline this week in the US Senate.
The president made the case that his administration’s vaccination push and his sweeping domestic agenda, which includes the injection of trillions of dollars into the economy, will “take the pressure off of inflation” rather than increasing it and give a boost to the nation’s workforce.
The global supply chain has faced challenges in getting back up to speed following the coronavirus pandemic, leading to price spikes on many products.
“Some folks have raised worries that this could be a sign of persistent inflation, but that’s not our view,” Biden said in a White House speech.
“Our experts believe, and the data shows, that most of the price increases we’ve seen were expected and are expected to be temporary.”
The Democratic president also said “no serious economist” is suggesting that unchecked inflation is on the way, although the White House remained “vigilant” against an extended rise in prices.
Biden’s effort at reassurance came as US stocks tumbled more than 2.5 percent by Monday afternoon amid resurgent Covid-19 fears and worries about inflation pinching global growth.
Biden stressed that while ups and downs are expected, the overall state of the economy is healthy.
Despite the “predictions of doom and gloom” six months into his administration, the economic growth rate has surged to its highest level in nearly 40 years.
Biden is meanwhile pushing Congress to take action on his sweeping domestic agenda, a multi-trillion-dollar plan to reshape government intervention in American society with the largest federal investments in a generation.
– ‘Should be united’ –
The US Senate is poised to take the first step on Wednesday, with a test vote on a historic bipartisan infrastructure package to fix and upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges, ports and broadband internet.
“We should be united in one thing: passage of the bipartisan infrastructure framework which we shook hands on,” Biden said.
But the agreement, under negotiation by 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans and featuring $579 billion in new spending, is in jeopardy.
Legislative language has yet to be finalized, as Republicans balked at a key revenue source under discussion: empowering the Internal Revenue Service to more aggressively track down tax cheats.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer nevertheless launched a hardball effort to force negotiators to reach agreement, announcing that the first vote on the bipartisan bill — a procedural move known as a cloture vote — will occur Wednesday.
But some Republicans are bristling at the need for speed, especially given the deal was still in flux.
“How can I vote for cloture when the bill isn’t written?” Senator Bill Cassidy told Fox News Sunday.
“Unless Senator Schumer doesn’t want this to happen, you need a little bit more time to get it right.”
The bipartisan infrastructure plan is one slice of Biden’s domestic agenda. He also supports a $3.5 trillion budget framework Democrats aim to pass absent Republican support.
The massive plan, including once-in-a-generation investments in health, education, climate initiatives and social welfare expansion, would use of a fast-track process known as reconciliation that allows budget-related legislation to pass by simple majority.
With Republicans united against the broader budget bill, every Senate Democrat would need to support the package to get it passed — no guarantee in a caucus that includes progressives and moderates.
Biden pushed for his broad set of initiatives outlined in the $3.5 trillion framework, saying: “Simply put, we can’t afford not to make these investments.”
Republicans warn that such investments would further fuel inflation.