With his domestic agenda at risk of failure and the prospect rising of a Democratic drubbing in the midterms, Biden needs to act swiftly to rescue his term.Even as Biden announced the terms last week of a $1.75 trillion framework to salvage his signature "Build Back Better" legislation—cut in half from the bill's original $3.5 trillion price tag—his approval rating was taking a beating. The latest Real Clear Politics average has just 42 percent of Americans approving of the job Biden has done so far, while 52 percent disapprove; that represents a sharp downturn over the past two months and a nearly 14-point drop overall from his post-inauguration peak of close to 56 percent.
President Joe Biden's proposed Build Back Better Act could be at risk amid concern Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) won't back the bill with inflation already at its highest level in 30 years.
The Consumer Price Index for October recorded a 6.2 percent increase year on year in figures published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Wednesday, with notable rises in the price of food and energy.
"Throughout the last three months, I have been straightforward about my concerns that I will not support a reconciliation package that expands social programs and irresponsibly adds to our nearly $29 trillion in national debt that no one else seems to care about. Nor will I support a package that risks hurting American families suffering from historic inflation," the statement said.
By all accounts, the threat posed by record inflation to the American people is not “transitory” and is instead getting worse. From the grocery store to the gas pump, Americans know the inflation tax is real and DC can no longer ignore the economic pain Americans feel every day.
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) November 10, 2021
Manchin added that he wouldn't "support a multitrillion-dollar bill without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on our economy and existing government programs."
GOP sees inflation as winning issue
Republicans are looking at surging inflation as a winning issue as the party molds its attack lines against President Biden and down-ballot Democrats ahead of the midterms. Annual inflation jumped to 6.2 percent in October, according to data released Wednesday by the Labor Department, reaching the highest level in more than 30 years. Prices rose 0.9 percent last month alone, marking the third straight month of accelerating inflation. Republicans have spent months blaming Biden and Democrats for rising food and gas prices, and inflation was a central focus of Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin's (R ) successful bid for the Virginia governor's mansion.
The original price tag for the Build Back Better Act was $3.5 trillion, but this was reduced to $1.75 trillion in large part because of opposition from Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).
Democrats are aiming to pass the bill without Republican support, but this will require all SenateDemocrats to support the final measure, making Manchin's position crucial.
However, Democrats who support the bill say experts believe it won't worsen long-term inflation and any rise will be temporary. They hope to offset inflation by taxes on the richest Americans.
President Biden made the same point in a statement issued on Wednesday that addressed the inflation rate.
"17 Nobel Prize winners in economics have said that my plan will 'ease inflationary pressures,'" Biden's statement said. "And my plan does this without raising taxes on those making less than $400,000 or adding to the federal debt, by requiring the wealthiest and big corporations to start to pay their fair share in taxes."
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will help ease inflationary pressures, lowering costs for working families.pic.twitter.com/FOcchsNWgN
Key Democratic senators silent on rising inflation, potential implications for Biden's massive spending bill
With inflation hitting Americans' wallets, at least one moderate Senate Democrat may be in favor of hitting the brakes on President Biden's massive spending plan. Several others are silent on the issue.Several key Democratic senators have been notably silent on accelerating inflation trends in the wake of the new data. They include Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev; Mark Kelly, D-Ariz.; Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.; and Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 8, 2021
Biden also acknowledged that current inflation levels are a problem.
"Inflation hurts Americans pocketbooks, and reversing this trend is a top priority for me," he said.
Speaking at the Port of Baltimore on Wednesday, Biden said people "remain unsettled about the economy" amid high prices and the administration was "tracking these issues and trying to figure out how to tackle them head on."
Axios reported on Wednesday that Manchin may delay the Build Back Better Act until next year given the limited number of legislative days left in 2021 and his concerns about inflation.
If the bill gets put back further, it could make reaching a deal more difficult.
Moderates and progressives in the Democratic Party have been in conflict over the bill and the separate $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which has now passed both the House and Senate. Manchin voted in favor of that bill.
Progressives had tried to link the passage of the bipartisan bill with progress on Build Back Better and House Democrats finally passed the bipartisan legislation on November 5 while also voting on a procedural motion to advance the reconciliation bill.
Biden will sign the bill at a White House ceremony on Monday and has also said the bipartisan infrastructure bill would have a positive effect on inflation. In a tweet on Sunday, he said: "The bipartisan infrastructure deal will help ease inflationary pressures, lowering costs for working families."
Inflation poses new challenges for progressives
The sharp increase in inflation could pose a challenge for progressives as they push to enact a robust social spending and climate package.The Labor Department reported Wednesday that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 6.2 percent in the 12-month period ending in October, the biggest increase since 1990. The data quickly caught the attention of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has already raised concerns about the size and the timing of the spending bill. Republicans are also highlighting the data in an effort to pressure moderate Democrats to oppose the legislation.
While Biden has sought to frame the Build Back Better Act as a cure to inflationary ills, if Manchin isn't convinced then the bill could be dead on its arrival in the Senate.
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Dems Stuck in Spin Cycle as Inflation Slowly Ruins Everything .
There’s no good way for President Joe Biden and Democrats to talk about how they are handling the worsening inflation currently squeezing consumers. But that hasn’t stopped them from trying. For months, Democrats have jumped from arguing that inflation was “transitory” and would pass to acknowledging the widespread public pain as prices rise from the gas pump to the grocery store. Apparently, the public is unmoved. Biden’s approval rating has hit new lows in recent public opinion polls, which have also shown Republicans gaining a clear edge to reclaim Congress in the 2022 elections. Meanwhile, inflation has quickly become the top concern of voters.