May 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: House members urged to jump on inflation fears

Illustration of a large dollar bill sign balloon being held by a man who is floating slightly off the ground.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

House Republicans will be urged to lean into voters' fear of inflation and link it to enacting the White House's economic agenda, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: A memo being sent by Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), who leads the Republican Study Committee, comes as some economists are increasingly concerned President Biden is doing too much, too fast, and his spending will crank up inflation.

  • Not only could rising prices jeopardize the Democrats' chances in next year's midterms but they could threaten Biden’s economic legacy.
  • Banks and GOP leaders are hoping this messaging tactic can help them achieve their goal of taking back the House majority. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) deployed it after meeting with the president this month.
  • The Republican Study Committee is the largest bloc of conservatives in the House.

Details: The document, carrying the subject line, "Tie Biden Agenda to Inflation," tells members to "explain to voters how inflation is Democrats’ hidden tax on the Middle Class."

  • It also provides a series of talking points such as telling voters "your dollar won’t go as far" if Biden continues to "devalue our currency," through COVID-19 stimulus payments and "generous unemployment benefits."
  • Banks also cites the warnings of Larry Summers, President Clinton’s Treasury secretary and former director of the National Economic Council during the Obama administration.
  • Summers cautioned in a Washington Post op-ed that Biden's stimulus could "set off inflationary pressures of a kind we have not seen in a generation."
  • The memo concludes with a chart laying out the difference in prices of consumer goods and commodities between May 2020 and May 2021, as well as links to inflation data for members' states.

Between the lines: Republicans have already drawn parallels between Biden and President Carter as inflation continues to seep into the public consciousness.

  • The memo is being sent Monday as members prepare to fly home to their districts this week for a three-week recess, beginning with the Memorial Day holiday.
  • Most members will be speaking with their constituents during this period.

Flashback: In March, Banks handed McCarthy a similar messaging memo stating the party should lean into their "new coalition" and make the GOP the party of the working class.

Read the full memo.

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