It was choose-your-midterm-adventure day on Tuesday at the White House and on Capitol Hill.
President Joe Biden gathered with scores of Democratic members of Congress and thousands of invited advocates to tout the sweeping environment, health and tax law that is intended to help bring down costs and mitigate the effects of inflation. Hours earlier, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., put the focus on abortion policy by formally unveiling an updated proposal that would restrict access to abortion after 15 weeks.
“This couldn’t have happened without every single one of you, and that’s in the literal sense in the Senate, every single one was required because the other team didn’t want to play,” Biden said on the South Lawn. The president called the law "the single most important legislation passed in the Congress to combat inflation, and one of the most significant laws in our nation’s history, in my view.”
“With this law, the American people won and special interests lost,” Biden said, emphasizing the pharmaceutical industry's opposition to Medicare negotiating some drug prices, and global companies' opposition to corporate tax changes.
The celebration at the White House for the party-line enactment of the legislation, which Biden noted he signed four weeks ago to the day, began with a musical performance by James Taylor. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California also spoke before the president.
“When President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, he not only made history, he made progress. When Congress passed this legislation, frankly, we jumped for joy. This is so exciting. Because of the transformative difference this law would make for America's working families,” Pelosi said.
When a reporter asked Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso about the abortion legislation Tuesday morning, the Wyoming Republican countered, “You ought to be asking me about inflation.”
“The numbers came in red hot and the White House is having a big party today to celebrate a bill that was passed on party-line votes alone, that is going to guarantee to make inflation even worse, and they don't seem to care,” Barrasso said. “And that's why voters feel forgotten, ignored and betrayed by Joe Biden and every Democrat.”
“It’s clear that the bills passed by this Democratic-led Senate will drive America forward with new jobs, good-paying jobs, jobs with a future,” Schumer said at the Capitol just before heading to the White House. “Americans from every walk of life are seeing the contrast: What are Democrats doing? Talking about new jobs, cheaper costs. What are the MAGA Republicans doing? Nationwide abortion ban. That’s the contrast between the two parties, plain and simple.”
Schumer then reiterated the point, speaking alongside Pelosi on the South Lawn.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was continuing to focus on inflation Tuesday, following the day’s unexpectedly poor inflation report, where annual inflation declined to 8.3 percent in August from a 8.5 percent a month earlier, which was higher than economists expected.
The consumer price index rose month over month, which was also unexpected. And “core” inflation, which strips out food and energy prices, hit 6.3 percent in August, larger than July’s 5.9 percent clip and well above expectations. Wall Street responded with a sell-off that pushed the S&P 500 down 4.3 percent.
“Here’s the comparison that matters most to American families, especially with an election in less than two months: How are things today compared to January 2021, when this all-Democrat government was sworn in?” McConnell said on the Senate floor, before rattling off a series of percentage increases in prices since Biden took office, when the United States was still in the COVID-19 pandemic-driven downturn.
Republicans are continuing to criticize the Biden administration and congressional Democrats for inflation broadly, but there are also ads circulating that target vulnerable congressional Democrats over specific provisions of the law being celebrated at the White House Tuesday afternoon.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California, is running an ad against Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., that cites the law’s funding increase for the IRS, which supporters argue will help improve enforcement to close the gap between taxes paid and taxes owed by top earners.
“He voted to double the IRS, and you could pay,” says the anti-Malinowski ad.
Kildee and Malinowski were among a long list of Democratic lawmakers scheduled to be in attendance at the White House Tuesday, including members from both safe and hotly contested seats.
Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., meanwhile, was getting support from a new ad unveiled Tuesday by the environmental groups EDF Action Votes and LCV Victory Fund touting his support for provisions to promote the installation of more solar panels.
The tax credits for electric vehicles and household energy efficiency upgrades were among the provisions highlighted by the White House as having an immediate effect on household finances.
“Inflation Reduction Act credits and rebates available today include a 30 percent credit to cover the costs of installing … rooftop solar, up to 10 percent credit to cover the costs of insulation materials and other energy efficient improvements like energy saving windows and doors, a $300 tax credit for purchasing efficient heating and cooling equipment like a heat pump or central air conditioner, a tax credit of up to … $7,500 for purchasing a new electric vehicle,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
Jean-Pierre was among the Democratic officials also highlighting provisions to reduce health costs, particularly for seniors buying prescription drugs.
“The authority of the HHS secretary to negotiate for lower prescription drug costs, long sought for, finally achieved, and for our seniors on Medicare, we have a $2,000 cap on prescription drug costs,” Pelosi said. “This is remarkable.”
Aiden Quigley and Peter Cohn contributed to this report.