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Democrats and Republicans on the House Committee on Economic Disparity and Growth Equity are weighing how to ease the burden of rising inflation on American families in a bipartisan way, especially in a “hyper-partisan environment.” “.
In a joint interview with Fox News Digital, Committee Chairman Jim Himes, D-Conn., and Ranking Member Bryan Steil, R-Wis., reflected on their visit to Wisconsin this week, along with Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis. ., where they met with local leaders in Milwaukee and Kenosha to discuss economic issues facing their communities.
As lawmakers were on the ground in Wisconsin, inflation figures were released, revealing a new four-decade high in March as Russia’s war on Ukraine fueled rapid oil price hikes and gas that nullified the benefits of higher wages for most Americans.
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The consumer price index rose 8.5% in March from a year ago, according to the Labor Department report released Tuesday, marking the fastest rise since January 1982, when inflation hit 8.4% The CPI, which measures a host of goods from gas and health care to groceries and rents, jumped 1.2% in the month-long period from January.
When asked to respond, Himes told Fox News there was “the real answer, and then there’s the partisan and political response.”
“The real answer is that inflation is very harmful to families. It’s a tax on your wealth, and so, especially for families who don’t have a lot of wealth, it’s a really harmful thing,” Himes told Fox News. . “And we’ve reached a point where inflation is now reversing some of the wage increases that we’ve seen.”
Himes said the US economy was “absolutely on the rocks right now”, citing a drop in the unemployment rate and an increase in jobs each month, but Himes said that “comes with demand that exceeds supply.
“And that’s the definition of inflation,” Himes said.
As for the “partisan and political response,” Himes told Fox News that Republicans would blame President Biden.
“That response is that it’s all Joe Biden’s fault, right? Well, it’s not. We did a $5 trillion fiscal stimulus, almost $6 trillion in this country over two administrations,” Himes said. “You know, Joe Biden’s administration was responsible for about a third of that, but we did a massive fiscal stimulus that resulted in an economy that’s as good as it is today, but that also led to inflation.”
Himes added that “the honest answer, not the partisan answer, is that the Federal Reserve has probably been slow to come out.”
“They are the ones who, through higher interest rates, are going to moderate inflation,” Himes said. “So again, the partisan response is that it’s all Joe Biden’s fault, and that’s just not actually true.”
Himes added, however, that the Federal Reserve “will have to step in and step in massively and raise rates and that’s not going to be a happy thing for the American people.”
At the time, Himes warned of rising mortgage rates and rates that would make it “more difficult and more expensive” for people to borrow to start a business.
INFLATION RISE 8.5% IN MARCH, REACHING NEW HIGH IN 40 YEARS
Steil, the committee’s top Republican, weighed in, telling Fox News that lawmakers need to figure out what to do with those who are “affected negatively” by inflation.
“How to find common ground, in particular to reduce the pain it causes?” Steil said. “Inflation hurts everyone.”
Steil added that inflation “only hurts seniors on fixed incomes and low-income workers.”
“Working low-income people who have always struggled to get by in the United States face a unique challenge in this environment. We’ve heard people talk about how housing costs are rising and where rents are increase,” Steil said.
In grocery stores, Americans saw prices for meat rise 14.8%, fish 10.9%, eggs 11.2%, milk 13.3%, fruits and vegetables 8 .1% and coffee by 11.2% since last year.
As for gasoline prices, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans paid 32% more for energy than last year and 48% more for gasoline.
Biden last month announced a ban on all Russian oil, gas and energy imports into the United States, targeting the “main artery” of Russia’s economy amid Russian President Vladimir’s war Putin against Ukraine, but warned the ban would cost American families. .
Russian oil accounts for about a third of Europe’s oil imports, but represents just under 10% of total US imports.
The White House, however, is blaming Putin for record US gasoline prices, even calling the spike “#PutinPriceHike” and promising that Biden will do whatever he can to protect Americans from the pump”.
Biden on Tuesday announced that the Environmental Protection Agency will allow the sale of E15 gasoline — gasoline that uses a 15% blend of ethanol — in the United States this summer in a bid to expand the Americans’ access to an affordable fuel supply amid the surge. in gas prices across the country.
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According to the White House, at current prices, E15 can save a family 10 cents per gallon of gasoline on average.
“The president has never controlled gas prices,” Himes told Fox News, underscoring Republicans’ calls for Biden to reopen domestic oil production through the Keystone XL pipeline. “You know, Keystone XL, if we activated it today, it would affect gas prices two to three years from now.”
Himes, defending the Biden administration, said it wasn’t fair to say the spike in gas prices was “their fault.”
But Steil disagreed, telling Fox News he was “recorded saying it’s Joe Biden’s fault.”
“The President and I may viscerally disagree on the causes and impact of Biden’s energy policies on current energy prices, but, at the same time, people are still feeling the sting and the inflationary environment in which we find ourselves,” Steil said. mentioned. “So whether we agree or disagree on the root causes and why we got here, I think we need to discuss how we deal with that in terms of ensuring that everyone is capable of living a good life, getting a good job – or a better job – and living the American Dream.”
And Steil said that while the two don’t “agree on everything,” they can agree on “where there are areas they can work together, and how we can actually help people in America. in a hyper partisan environment”.
“There are times when we are going to get into this partisan fray, but there are also times when we have to pause and say, where are the areas for success? Are there government programs that are working well? Are there private sector solutions that work well?
Steil added, “These force us both to recognize that sometimes there are solutions that cross traditional political-ideological spectrums and cross Washington, D.C., talking points.”
In Wisconsin this week, Himes, Steil and Moore participated in a number of hearings and on-the-ground events in Milwaukee and Kenosha, where they discussed issues such as affordable housing, higher education and the community workforce development.
Himes told Fox News the events were a “wonderful learning opportunity for him” and said there were “strong commonalities” between the issues facing Americans in Milwaukee and Kenosha with what he sees in and around his own district in Connecticut.
Steil said one of the “biggest challenges” highlighted during the trip was “the amount of work that remains to be done”.
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“I think that’s true across the United States, and it gives us a perspective to dive in and seek out those political solutions that cross party lines for the benefit of the American people,” Steil said.
In an interview with Fox News ahead of their first joint hearing in Wisconsin, Himes said the issue of economic disparity is “too big and means too much to too many Americans for us to show up and suggest that the issues are simple”.
“There’s too much going on for Democrats to pretend we have all the answers, and Republicans are always wrong — it all means too much to too many people,” Himes said. “That doesn’t mean I’m any less of a Democrat, or that Ranking Member Steil is any less of a Republican — some issues are easier for Democrats to hear, and some issues are harder.”
He added: ‘But we really want to bring all this out, because no one party has a monopoly on the right answers.’
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Himes told Fox News the committee will continue to hold on-the-ground hearings outside of Washington, D.C., saying lawmakers “will be true to what we believe, but lean heavily on areas where there is overlap.” , because, frankly, in this Congress, nothing happens”. done without bipartisan support.”
“There are economic disparities everywhere you look,” Steil told Fox News. “It’s not a Democrat thing or a Republican thing.”