Senate Republicans took President Biden to task on Wednesday for rising food prices ahead of the holiday season.
Senate Minority Whip John Thune said the White House’s big-spending agenda, coupled with lingering economic issues from the coronavirus pandemic, had pushed inflation highs unseen in more than a generation.
“This is going to be the most expensive Thanksgiving for American families in history,” said Mr. Thune, South Dakota Republican. “I’ve been warning about this since last February when the Democrats were talking about passing their first massive tax and spending bill.”
The price of common goods and services has skyrocketed since Mr. Biden took office. Inflation has reached a 30-year high, according to Labor Department data released earlier this week.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of common groceries, including poultry and dairy, has jumped nearly 12% over the last year. Popular Thanksgiving accouterments have skyrocketed in price, with the cost of a turkey 18% higher this year.
Not only are prices increasing, but grocery stores are also facing food shortages because of persistent supply chain snags.
Around the holidays, retailers generally try to have at least enough stock on hand to meet 95% of the prior year’s sales. Consumer groups report that retailers are lucky to have half of what they sold last year on hand this holiday season.
GOP lawmakers said the supply chain issues only add to inflationary pressure.
“Inflation is coming for Thanksgiving dinner, making it more expensive than ever before,” said Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas, the top Republican on the Agriculture Committee. “The problem is nothing is being done … no hearings. We simply are asleep at the switch and this is greatly affecting real people.”
Republicans accused the White House of ignoring the problem posed by inflation for too long, while focusing exclusively on its domestic spending agenda, including Mr. Biden’s multitrillion-dollar social welfare bill, labeled the Build Back Better Act.
“What they’re talking about doing now with this next massive and reckless tax and spending spree is going to aggravate and accelerate [the] inflation issue even more,” said Mr. Thune. “It’s not going away and the only thing that they can do to make it worse is to flood the zone with more spending, more taxes and more debt.”
Such fears vex members of Mr. Biden’s party as well.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III, a key swing vote for the White House’s agenda, has warned that more federal spending is only likely to exacerbate inflationary pressures.
“From the grocery store to the gas pump, Americans know the inflation tax is real and [Washington] can no longer ignore the economic pain Americans feel every day,” said Mr. Manchin.
Such concerns from Democrats do not bode well for Mr. Biden’s social welfare and climate bill. It can only pass via budget reconciliation, a process that allows some spending and tax measures to avert the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster threshold and pass by a simple majority.
Given that the Senate is split 50-50 between the two pirates, Democrats have been forced to take Mr. Manchin’s concerns are serious.
Part of that strategy has been to repackage the social welfare bill as a way to fight inflation. Democrats are especially eager to portray the package’s more controversial provisions, including Medicare drug pricing and tax hikes, as a cure for inflation.
“If we want to fight inflation, if we want to create more jobs … lower costs and make sure families have more money in their pockets,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “The best thing we can do is pass Build Back Better.”