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Moderate Democrats push their party to do more to fight inflation


Following a meeting with President Joe Biden on Wednesday, March 30th, 2022 in Washington, Rep. Suzan DeBene, D. Wash., is seen with the media outside the West Wing. Rep. Scott Peters of California, right, and Rep. Amibera, D.Calif. are standing with DelBene.

Patrick Semansky | AP

The moderate House Democrats have formed a coalition to urge the party to do more to stop inflation. They are calling for actions on issues such as tariffs, immigration, and drug prices.

New Democrats are the largest bloc of voters in the caucus and Wednesday’s list includes proposals calling for legislative action in Congress as well as executive action from the White House. They aim to break through gridlock in Washington to answer increasingly anguished pleas from constituents who face rising prices at the pump and at the grocery store – before they vent their frustration at the polls in the midterm elections. 

CNBC’s Suzan DelBene said that “good policy is good politics”. She is a Washington state Democrat, and also the group’s chairwoman. People want to see that government is effective and that our attention is on the issues. This is what voters will see in November.

They spent many months discussing the suggestions and consulting top economists like Jason Furman, an ex-Obama adviser and Wendy Edelberg from the Brookings Institution. The plan has been endorsed by Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary.

The New Democrats asked the House to utilize “every legislative weekly to promote an affordability agenda” in a Wednesday letter.

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This platform is the Biden administration ramps up its public responseInflation, which has strained consumers as it sits near 40-year highs. According to the White House, recent actions on fuel economy standards, oil supply, and student debt were highlighted by it. These moves are expected to reduce costs.

Many of the New Democrats’ proposals go far beyond the White House. The group demanded broad exclusions from tariffs on Chinese imports that were imposed by President Donald Trump and the suspension of any trade restrictions that limit food supply. 

Rep. Scott Peters from California, who is the vice chair of the policy committee of the group, stated that this was the single thing that could have the greatest immediate impact.

Gina Raimondo (Commerce Secretary) stated that her administration may reduce levies for household goods earlier in the week. However, the White House faces increasing pressure from labor unions to remain firm against Beijing. 

New Dems want the government to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to bring down the prices. The White House has so far committed to 1,000,000 barrels per day over the next six-months.

Additionally, they are focusing on immigration and workforce: The coalition plans to overhaul licensing requirements and noncompete agreement, increase the number high-skilled Visas and provide a path to citizenship for so-called Dreamers.

DelBene stated that while we need to deal with the immediate impacts, it is also important to plan for long-term stability in order to be able to withstand future challenges.

A federal gas tax is one topic that the group has not addressed. Many of the group’s members support a temporary pause in order to alleviate pump pressures. The Democratic leadership is not enthusiastic about the idea and warns that the oil companies might not be able to pass on savings to the consumers. 

The internal debate has created an opening for Republicans to accuse Democrats of blaming others – from Big Oil to Russian President Vladimir Putin – for higher prices.

Rep. Kevin Brady, Texas’ top Republican member of the House Ways and Means committee, stated that the president does not have any serious plans to combat inflation and that his “solutions will only make matters worse”.  

Some New Democrats’ suggestions are based on legislation that they want to get through Congress.

They have been strong supporters of the bipartisan bill for innovation to reduce supply chain congestion, invest in new-generation research, and provide $52 billion support to the domestic semiconductor sector. This bill is already being discussed by Democrats with Republicans.

Additionally, the group outlined some provisions that Democrats’ no longer-existing Build Back Better package could support in any revised version. These include the extension of subsidies for Affordable Care Act premiums and the preservation of the enhanced child credit. They also suggest that Medicare be allowed to negotiate some of the costs of insulin. Prices for drugs 

Peters declared, “Right Now fighting inflation is Job One of Congress.” This is an opportunity to lead and take action.