Biden: 'We're heading into a holiday season in very strong shape'

President BidenJoe BidenPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy  Vilsack accuses China of breaking commitments in Trump-era trade deal MORE on Wednesday said that the U.S. economy is heading into the holiday season in strong shape, touting his administration’s work to address the supply chain crisis.

“We’re heading into a holiday season in very strong shape. It’s not because of luck. We averted a potential crisis by figuring out what needed to get fixed, and then we brought people together to do the hard work of fixing it,” Biden said in remarks at the White House. 

He pointed to efforts by his administration to speed up operations at ports, break up logjams to transport goods from ports to homes, and eliminate fees when truck drivers enter ports to pick up containers at night or over the weekend. 

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“Now, I can’t promise that every person will get every gift they want on time. Only Santa Claus can keep that promise. There are items every year that sell out that are hard to find,” he said, mentioning Cabbage Patch Kids in the 1980s and Beanie Babies in the 1990s as examples.

“If you watch the news recently, you might think the shelves in all our stores are empty across the country, that parents won’t be able to get presents for their children this holiday season. But here’s the deal: For the vast majority of the country, that’s not what’s happening,” he added.

Biden on Monday met with CEOs from major retailers and grocers, including Best Buy's Corie Barry, Walmart’s Doug McMillon and Kroger's Rodney McMullen, and said that consumer spending has recovered to where it was headed before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden is expected to put forward the White House’s strategy to battle COVID-19 in the winter months on Thursday.

“Tomorrow I’ll be putting forward the next steps we will be taking to fight COVID this winter, not with shutdowns and lockdowns but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more,” the president said. 

However, he reiterated that the best protection against the omicron variant is offered by vaccines and booster shots, adding that the more contagious strain will be fought with “science and speed, not chaos and confusion.”

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“You know me. I’m an optimist. What we have seen so far does not guarantee that’s the outcome,” he said when asked if the new variant could exacerbate supply chain issues. “I think the jury is still out. I think it’s too early to make that judgement. But am I concerned? Of course I am.”

He also addressed price increases, which he called a “worldwide challenge,” and said every country is grappling with the same issue.

He pointed to work his administration has done to bring down prices, such as releasing 50 barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

“Even after accounting for rising prices, the typical American family has more money in their pockets than they did last year or the year before that,” he said.

He criticized Republicans' opposition to his economic agenda while touting his Build Back Better plan, saying it will cut out-of-pocket costs for child case, elder care, college, health care and prescription drugs.

“My Republican friends are talking a lot about prices, but they’re lined up against my Build Back Better plan, which would go right at the problem for rising costs for families. Why is that? I don’t want to speculate at anyone’s motive, but it’s always easier to complain about a problem than to try to fix it,” he said.

Final details of the $2 trillion spending plan, which is the centerpiece of Biden's Build Back Better agenda, are being negotiated in the Senate, and leadership hopes to have it pass before Christmas through the reconciliation process since no Republican lawmakers are expected to support it.

The president pointed to a comment last month from Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, that rising prices were “a gold mine” for Republicans heading into the midterm elections. 

“Imagine rooting for higher costs for American families just to score a few political points,” he said. “Nothing will be more expensive for American families than a no vote on the Build Back Better plan.”