Democrats are hitting the panic button over inflation that is tearing through Americans’ pocketbooks just months before the midterm elections.
House members say they’re being bombarded by constituent calls about skyrocketing prices at the gas pump and the grocery store, and putting pressure on Democrats to take action.
“Inflation is a real issue, and it’s causing a lot of pain to people. We have to deal with it,” Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, told The Washington Times.
Rep. Matt Cartwright, Pennsylvania Democrat, said more members need to take notice or they will face the political consequences in November.
“It’s staggeringly more expensive to fill up your gas tank. People can’t believe how much it costs, so they’re hurting right now,” Mr. Cartwright said.
Mr. Cartwright is one of more than 60 Democrats targeted by the House GOP’s campaign arm and one of a handful of members who won their seat in a district won that former President Donald Trump won in 2020.
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U.S. inflation dropped slightly to 8.3% in April from March’s 40-year-high level of 8.5% but that’s scant relief for families. Food prices rose at the fastest pace in decades since April 1981.
The alarmist tone Democrats now have when talking about inflation is a stark shift from earlier this year when a Biden administration official referred to inflation concerns as “high-class problems.”
President Biden for months insisted inflation would be transitory or temporary. In January, he also called a Fox News reporter a “stupid son of a bitch” when the reporter asked about inflation.
Democrats have also pointed to global factors as the main cause of the rise in goods, pointing to the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Voters’ frustrations with inflation have already crept up in the polls, with 94% of Americans feeling concerned or upset about the price increases, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll in May.
Republicans have aggressively blamed Democratic for both policies that fuel inflation and failing to take action to curb rising prices.
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Democratic strategist Brad Bannon said the White House and Congress need to find a way to tackle inflation or else suffer the loss of several seats in November.
“That’s really the burr under the Democratic saddle right now,” Mr. Bannon said. “Democrats in competitive districts are getting eaten up by inflation.”
Rep. Andy Kim, a New Jersey Democrat in a tough reelection race this year, said inflation is the main issue he hears about at town hall meetings.
“It’s definitely a big issue. I just did a town hall, and a lot of people talked about the rising costs, and they’re furious,” Mr. Kim said.
Rank and file Democrats have called on their congressional leaders to do more, but they don’t have many viable solutions.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, plans a vote next week on a bill that would target price gouging by oil companies and gas stations. It’s doubtful such an effort would bring down prices, and the bill has no chance of surviving in the Senate.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, said members will work with Mr. Biden “to focus like a laser beam” on inflation.
Members pointed to the need to pass the anti-China competition bill, dubbed the COMPETES Act, to bring down costs by shoring up supply chains.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, which continues to link swing state Democrats to the tough economic environment, dismissed Democrats’ attempts to address rising costs.
“Democrats have no plan to contain the inflation crisis they created,” said NRCC spokesperson Mike Berg.
Republicans need a net gain of five seats in November to win the House majority.