- The Washington Times - Friday, August 6, 2021

House Republicans plan to make the rising cost of living a key messaging point as they seek to take back the majority next year.

The National Republican Congressional Committee launched several targeted ads last week that tied vulnerable Democrats to inflation and excess spending.

“Inflation is a tax on every single American and is a direct result of Democrats’ reckless spending,” said a statement by Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, who chairs the NRCC. “We are going to ensure voters know that Democrats are responsible for the higher costs they are paying for just about everything.” 

Republicans are focusing on higher consumer prices as Democrats try to promote the economic achievements of the Biden administration.

The Congressional Budget Office said Thursday that the Democrats’ $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill would add at least $256 billion to the national deficit. Democrats are concerned about the developments and their impact on 2022 races.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, signaled last week that inflation and the national labor shortage could be roadblocks. In a closed-door meeting, Mr. Maloney warned moderate Democrats that they would lose the majority if the elections were held today.

“Inflation is potentially the biggest vulnerability for Democrats,” Republican Party strategist Doug Heye said. “People are seeing increases in practically every facet of their life.”

In a CBS poll conducted July 14-17, 78% of respondents said groceries are more expensive, 80% said gasoline prices are up and 54% said electricity costs are higher. The poll of 2,238 adults had a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.

Sen. Rick Scott, Florida Republican, proposed a resolution last week that would require all spending and tax-related bills to undergo a third-party, independent analysis of how they would impact inflation.

“The American people are already feeling the pressure of rising inflation thanks to reckless government spending,” Mr. Scott said. “And make no mistake about it, inflation is a tax — a tax that hurts our families on low and fixed incomes the most.”

The proposal, first introduced in the House by Rep. Jim Banks, Indiana Republican, received 52 of the needed 60 votes to pass in the Senate.

Mr. Banks, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, has been leading a campaign to emphasize the impact of inflation on voters’ pocketbooks.

He wrote in a May memo that Republicans should play up the rising cost of living, which polls indicate is a key concern for voters.

“We need to tie inflation to the Biden economic agenda and explain to voters how inflation is Democrats’ hidden tax on the Middle Class,” Mr. Banks wrote.

The NRCC is targeting 57 Democrats, who largely represent swing districts. Several of the lawmakers belong to the centrist Blue Dog Coalition and New Democrat Coalition, the second-largest ideological caucus in Congress that promotes fiscal responsibility and economic growth.

Ads about inflation are scheduled to be aired against 15 House Democrats, including Reps. Stephanie Murphy of Florida, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Tom O’Halleran of Arizona.

Pope McCorkle, a public policy professor at Duke University and a longtime Democratic Party consultant, said getting the bipartisan infrastructure package passed and touting President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, will help Democrats, especially if the economy is stable next year.

But the nationalization of local politics is likely to make some moderates susceptible to Republican messaging, Mr. McCorkle said.

“Things have gotten so ideologically polarized that, ironically, the people who are the most vulnerable are the people who are least toeing the party line,” Mr. McCorkle told The Washington Times. “It’s hard to have a personal economic message.”

Republican victories in moderate Democratic districts last year were blamed in part on Republican-led campaign talking points that portrayed Democrats as anti-police and socialist.

Mr. Biden’s approval ratings have been dropping since April, partly because of concerns about inflation and the economy, according to an analysis by the Cook Political Report. COVID-19 is also a factor.

The president’s approval rating has dropped 3 to 10 percentage points in four polls, the report said.

Amy Walter, author of the Cook Political Report, said concerns about inflation and “complaints about a worker shortage due to generous government support” are “coming up a lot” in focus groups organized by Republican and Democratic strategists.

A Monmouth University poll has found that “everyday bills, food and groceries” are among voters’ biggest concerns. “In other words, people are feeling the pinch in their pocketbooks. It’s not theoretical,” she wrote.

Mr. Biden said a rosy jobs report Friday proves the economy is recovering but a fast-moving strain of the coronavirus poses a threat.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the U.S. added 943,000 jobs in July, exceeding forecasts, and the unemployment rate dropped to 5.4%, the lowest since the pandemic began in March 2020.

“While our economy is far from complete and we doubtless will have ups and downs along the way as we continue to battle the delta surge of COVID, what is indisputable is this: The Biden plan is working,” Mr. Biden said at the White House.

• Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

• Mica Soellner can be reached at msoellner@washingtontimes.com.

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