Nov 18, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Democrats urge Biden to do more about inflation

President Biden is seen greeting Rep. Elissa Slotkin after arriving in Michigan in October.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin greets President Biden as he arrives in Lansing, Michigan, last month. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Frontline Democrats in the House and Senate are growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of urgency to combat rising prices, and are calling on President Biden to do more as consumers confront sticker shock ahead of the holidays.

Why it matters: The current party-line message on increasing inflation is that it's largely a product of the pandemic, and economists expect prices to come down early next year. However, many Democrats facing tough reelection fights think the Biden administration could be doing more to accelerate the process.

Driving the news: Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), whose district voted for former President Trump in both 2016 and 2020, sent a letter to President Biden on Wednesday urging him to take immediate action to help address inflation.

She also offered him two concrete examples, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Axios.

  • "First, increase our diplomatic pressure on Saudi Arabia and other OPEC+ nations,” Slotkin wrote. “In particular, I'd urge you to work closely with the United Arab Emirates and other U.S. allies who might be willing to help counterbalance Saudi efforts to artificially and unnecessarily curb production."
  • "Second, I'd ask you to consider a release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a signal that could help push global markets in the right direction."
  • "With the steps outlined above, along with a range of other options, I believe you can begin to address the inflationary crisis affecting Americans today, ahead of the holidays. More than ever, I feel that your leadership is needed," she wrote.

The president has repeatedly addressed inflationary concerns in his recent public comments.

  • "Today’s economic reports showing unemployment continuing to fall, but consumer prices remain too high," Biden said last week in Baltimore. "Everything from a gallon of gas to loaf of bread costs more. And it’s worrisome, even though wages are going up."
  • "The administration is closely and directly monitoring the situation," a White House official told Axios. "[W]e’ve communicated with the FTC to crack down on illegal pricing — including a letter from President Biden to Chairwoman [Lina] Khan [Wednesday]."
  • "Additionally, we are engaging with countries and entities abroad like OPEC+ on increasing supply. We’re looking at all the tools in our arsenal, we’re very concerned about the impact of high energy prices on consumers," the official added.

Slotkin was previously a Middle East analyst for the CIA. She also worked at the Pentagon as acting assistant secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs prior to running for Congress.

What they're saying: Slotkin told Axios her concerns heightened after spending time in her district last week.

  • "I feel like the signal was so strong from my district that they wanted their government working on this, that you would have every Cabinet secretary with a voice in this conversation out listening to people, talking to people, explaining what we're doing about it."
  • "I think that it's important that people understand that the administration has the same sense of urgency, and I think there could be more done," she said.

Other vulnerable Democrats have shared similar concerns.

  • "Inflation hits middle class, working class people hard. Obviously, I'm concerned, hopefully this is a short period of inflationary pressure," Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) told Axios.
  • “I'm worried about inflation. And I noticed that myself at the gas pump. Prices are going up, and I know that that's stressful for people, especially around the holidays,” Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) told Politico.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to incorporate White House comment.

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