Senate

Manchin: White House acknowledges inflation is major concern

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), emerging from a meeting with White House chief of staff Ron Klain, said Thursday that the president’s top advisers now acknowledge inflation is a major concern that needs to be addressed.

“The White House has made that very clear. They made it very clear that inflation and costs is a burden on a lot of people,” he told reporters.

A second Democratic senator who requested anonymity to discuss the details of the private meeting said inflation was “a major topic.”

For much of the last year, the president and senior White House officials have argued that rising inflation numbers would be temporary, echoing the prediction of Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. The president began to change his tone on rising prices in November. 

Manchin and other Democrats said there was also no discussion at Thursday’s meeting about reviving President Biden’s Build Back Better package, with Klain and Democratic lawmakers instead discussing Biden’s plan to address rising costs.

Manchin said the White House hasn’t yet directly reached out to him to resume negotiations over Biden’s stalled climate and social spending agenda.

Asked if the White House re-engaged with him directly on the stalled package that Democrats had hoped to pass last year under special budget reconciliation rules, Manchin said: “No formal talks at all.”  

Instead, Klain focused on what he described would be Biden’s positive message at the State of the Union address scheduled for March 1.

“What we talked about was just some of the top lines that will probably be coming out for State of the Union, some of the important things that we’re working. All the jobs and economy that is going to be improved because of the infrastructure bill,” said Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), summarizing the meeting.

Rosen said “there was no talk” of reviving Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.

Biden’s sweeping climate and social spending package foundered at the end of last year after Manchin said he couldn’t support it, in large part because of his concerns about inflation and the mounting federal debt.

Two months later, senators say the White House is now acknowledging that rising costs are a major problem.

“Yes, people are concerned about costs. So one of the things we talked about at our caucus was a provision of the American Rescue Plan that … we passed and it’s been signed into law, a refundable, expanded day care tax credit,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). “Families that have daycare costs can now get thousands of dollars more as a tax credit off this year’s filing.”  

Coons said his colleague, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), brought up the day care-costs tax break at the meeting as something the administration should do more to publicize.

“If you reduce costs to families, that’s what matters to them,” Coons said.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said inflation was discussed “under the framework of the economy and all the things that we need to be doing to lower costs for people.” 

“The way he put it was, I believe, that, ‘You can either make people poor so they can’t afford to buy anything or you make more stuff so that the prices will go down and I like to make more stuff in our country,’” she said. “There’s a lot of emphasis on making sure that our supply chains are working and that we make more things in our own country.” 

Tags Bob Casey Build Back Better Chris Coons Inflation Jacky Rosen Jerome Powell Joe Biden Joe Manchin Mazie Hirono Ron Klain

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