- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 27, 2021

President Biden on Thursday warned Republicans touting parts of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package they universally opposed not to “get in the way” of the $4 trillion-plus economic agenda Mr. Biden says is needed to sustain a longer-term economic recovery.

Mr. Biden whipped out a list of GOP lawmakers he said are praising parts of the relief package while they’re back home in their districts, like a special fund for hard-hit restaurants and money for community health care centers.

“Some people have no shame,” the president said, laughing. “But I’m happy. I’m happy they know that it benefitted their constituents. That’s OK with me.

“But if you’re going to try to take credit for what you’ve done, don’t get in the way of what we still need to do,” the president said.

Congressional Democrats muscled the package through in March without a single Republican vote.

“I’m not going to embarrass any one of them, but I have here a list of how back in their districts they’re bragging about the rescue plan,” the president said.

A New York Times photographer captured some of the names on the list Mr. Biden held up. One of them was Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi — one of about a half-dozen Senate Republicans the White House is trying to work with on a compromise infrastructure package.

Others included House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, who was recently elected as the new House GOP Conference chair.

Mr. Biden spoke after touring Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio, where he had been slated to hold a campaign rally in March 2020 before the coronavirus upended those plans.

He said the country is turning the tide with respect to coronavirus deaths, cases and economic numbers.

“We still have work to do, but our future today is as bright and as wide open as it ever has been,” he said. “America’s coming back. America’s on the move.”

His comments about the GOP come as he’s still trying to negotiate with Mr. Wicker and other Senate Republicans on a version of his $2.3 trillion infrastructure package.

SEE ALSO: Dems prod Joe Biden to nix bipartisan infrastructure deal for ‘big, bold’ spending spree

The president’s infrastructure plan and his $1.8 trillion “American Families Plan” are likely to be central features of Mr. Biden’s expected $6 trillion budget blueprint for 2022 the White House plans to roll out on Friday.

The White House said the administration already inherited a sea of red ink from last year’s coronavirus-related spending and that additional funds are needed to keep the economic recovery going.

“The president inherited $3 trillion of spending that had already been done to help get the pandemic under control,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One on the way to Ohio. “What the budget will reflect is that he is going to continue to deliver on his priorities.”

The president’s budget plan would send government debt as a share of the economy to nearly unprecedented levels.

Republicans warned that continuing to inject such massive amounts of taxpayer money into the economy will spark runaway inflation and tack on additional red ink to an already-worsening federal budget picture.

“As the country recovers from the pandemic and the economy starts to grow, I am concerned that this excessive level of federal spending by the administration will lead to both inflation and massive debt that will hinder the recovery and burden future generations of Americans,” Rep. Steve Womack, Arkansas Republican, said at a congressional hearing on Thursday.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said at the hearing she expects to see high annual rates of inflation through the end of the year but doesn’t see the price increase trends as a major cause for concern yet.

“I think as the economy gets back online it’s going to be a bumpy process, but I do believe we’ll see some adjustments,” Ms. Yellen said. “I don’t think this is endemic inflation. And we have tools to address it and it will be important to do so.”

While the levels of spending are staggering, they would be continuing a longer-term trend that’s seen the federal debt and deficits explode over the last two decades.

In February 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, the Trump administration projected that 2022 spending levels would top $5 trillion.

Since then, Congress has authorized roughly $6 trillion in new spending to respond to the pandemic and the associated economic fallout.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the economy grew by 6.4% on an annualized basis in January, February and March of this year.

The rate was unchanged from an initial advance estimate in April. Analysts had expected the rate to be revised upward to show 6.6% growth.

There were 406,000 Initial jobless claims for the week ending May 22, the Labor Department also announced Thursday — the lowest figure since March 2020.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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