Biden, in Campaign Form, Delivers Fiery Remarks to Celebrate Inflation Reduction Act
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden, sans jacket but with his ever-present aviator sunglasses in place, was in full-on campaign mode as he welcomed thousands to the South Lawn of the White House Tuesday to celebrate last month’s passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.
“With this law the American people won and the special interests lost,” the president said as he stalked the stage under a bright blue sky Tuesday afternoon.
“This is what it looks like when the American government works for the people … when we tell the powerful interests, ‘No, you’re not going to get your way this time. Not this year. Not this time. Not now.
“Folks, we’re going to lower prescription drug costs, lower health insurance costs, lower energy costs for millions of families,” Biden said to loud applause as he paced the stage from right to left and back again.
“And we are going to take the most aggressive action ever, ever, ever to confront the climate crisis and increase our energy security — ever in the whole world,” he said to even louder applause.
“And that’s not hyperbole, that’s a fact,” he added.
“And we’re going to build a future — the future — here in the United States of America with American workers, with American companies, with American-made products,” Biden continued.
“And after years of some of the biggest corporations in the United States paying zero in federal income tax, they will now have to begin to literally pay their fair share,” he said, adding, “Today offers proof that the soul of America is vibrant, the future of America is bright, and the promise of America is real. It is real. It is real.”
The Inflation Reduction Act passed with only Democratic votes in August. It includes the most substantial federal investment in history to fight climate change — some $375 billion over a decade — and will cap prescription drug costs at $2,000 out-of-pocket annually for Medicare recipients.
It also would help an estimated 13 million Americans pay for health care insurance by extending subsidies provided during the coronavirus pandemic.
The measure is paid for by new taxes on large companies and stepped-up IRS enforcement on wealthy individuals and entities.
Biden’s remarks came just hours after a government showed that inflation stood at 8.3% year-to-year in August, though just 0.1% higher going from July to August.
Despite a marked decline in gasoline prices, which have tumbled since June, the costs of housing and goods remain high.
On Tuesday, stocks took a tumble on the inflation report, with the S&P 500 sinking 4.5% by the time the market closed.
As he traveled to Delaware after the rally, the president tried to minimize the report’s impact, pointing out that “the stock market doesn’t necessarily reflect the state of the economy.”
“The economy is still strong, unemployment is low,” he said.
The president was then asked whether he is worried about inflation.
“No, I’m not,” he said. “We’re talking one tenth of one percent.”
Nonetheless, Republicans were quick to criticize Biden after the report came out on Tuesday, while also slamming the timing of the White House celebration.
“Yet another monthly inflation report worse than expectations. Worst food and electricity inflation in more than 40 years. Housing and medical costs way up. Democrats’ reckless policies have waged war on working families’ stability, savings, and lifestyles,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell via Twitter on Tuesday.
Later, McConnell added, “You can’t make it up: Hours after this terrible inflation report, the White House is hosting an ‘inflation reduction’ celebration. Democrats have spent our economy into disaster and now they’re partying while families pay. They could not look more out of touch if they tried,” he said.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., meanwhile has vowed to roll back the act’s spending and will lay out a plan for doing so later this month in the form of an as-yet undefined “Commitment to America” proposal.
On Tuesday, McCarthy called out the Democrats, saying via Twitter, “Your grocery bill has never been higher. Joe Biden is celebrating. Your paycheck is being reduced by inflation. Joe Biden is celebrating. You can’t afford a home, and your retirement is in the tank. Joe Biden is celebrating. Democrats have no plan to help you and your family.”
But such criticism only appeared to make the president and congressional Democratic leaders all the more determined to hail the new law and celebrate their legislative victories of the past year.
“This law is going to make a big difference for middle-class and working-class families, finally giving them a little bit, as my dad would say, again, ‘breathing room,’” Biden said of the Inflation Reduction Act.
“It’s a big step forward for the country, but it won’t surprise you to hear that many Republicans are [criticizing it],” he said.
“What’s their platform when you ask them? You hear the Republican leaders saying: Undo everything we’ve done,” Biden said.
“The Republican leader in the House has already said the number-one economic priority if they win back the House is to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act. Number one,” Biden said.
“The guy in charge of electing Republicans in the Senate, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, proposed a plan — I wish I had enough copies to hand out — but go online and look at it. I really mean this. It’s serious, because it’s going to be hard for you to believe.
“He’s actually proposed a plan requiring Congress to vote on the future of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid every five years. I want to remind you, you paid for your Social Security. He wants to put it up for reauthorization.
“Every single paycheck from the time you’re a kid, you paid for it. So every five years, Congress gets to vote, change, cut, reduce, or eliminate the entirety of Social Security.
“And it’s not just Social Security,” Biden continued. “Scott wants everything in the federal budget to be up for five years. Nothing permanent. Nothing. That includes veterans’ benefits, Pell Grants, everything else.
“Look it up. It’s hard to believe. I would think I’m exaggerating if I didn’t look at it myself,” Biden said. (Laughter.)
“And then along comes Sen. Ron Johnson from Wisconsin,” he continued, as “boos” rolled over the audience.
“As my mother would say, ‘God love him,’” Biden said.
“He thinks five years is too long to wait. He wants to put to vote — Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block every single year,” the president said. “Let me remind you all again: You paid for Social Security. You paid for Medicare. It’s taken out of every single one of your paychecks.
“These guys never give up. Well, guess what? We’re not going to give up either,” Biden continued.
“We are often told there’s nothing you can get done in Washington,” he said. “Too often, we confuse noise with substance. Too often, we confuse setbacks with defeat. Too often, we hand the biggest microphones to the critics and cynics who delight in declaring failure while those committed to making real progress do the hard work of governing.
“Making progress in every country as big and complicated as ours is difficult. It is not easy and it never has been. But I know with conviction, commitment, and patience, progress does come, and it’s coming now,” he said to another round of applause from those on the South Lawn.
“And when it does come, people’s lives are better off — all people; the future becomes brighter; the nation is transformed.”