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Rep. Pramila Jayapal speaks at a rally.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) speaks at a rally on November 16, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for SEIU)

'If You Care About Inflation,' Says Jayapal, 'Then Pass the Build Back Better Act'

"Let's cut child care costs in half, let's cut prescription drug pricing costs significantly... Those are the things that are going to cut costs for Americans."

Jake Johnson

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, argued Wednesday that those who claim to be concerned about inflationary pressures in the U.S. economy should prioritize swift passage of the Build Back Better Act, which contains measures aimed at driving down prices in housing, medicine, child care, and other crucial areas.

"There is no good way to connect the dots between the Build Back Better agenda... and higher inflation."

"The message really is, if you care about inflation, then pass the Build Back Better Act," Jayapal (D-Wash.) said in a television interview Wednesday, a week after Labor Department data showed that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has risen 6.2% over the past year—the sharpest increase in three decades.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a key swing vote who has repeatedly threatened to tank his own party's reconciliation bill, wasted no time asserting that the price figures amount to evidence that "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," he added, "and D.C. can no longer ignore the economic pain Americans feel every day."

Given Manchin's past comments pointing to inflation as a reason Democrats should scale back their reconciliation bill, observers saw the West Virginia senator's response to the CPI data as another signal that he is willing to kill the package—even as economists refuted the narrative that economic "overheating" is to blame for rising inflation.

During her interview Wednesday, Jayapal contended that supply chain issues and the reverberating effects of the coronavirus pandemic are in large part responsible for the inflation jump, which has hardly been confined to the U.S.

"The things that we are dealing with right now are due to supply chain... hold-ups, they're due to Covid problems, they are due to, you know, getting the economy back after such a devastating turn," said Jayapal, echoing expert assessments of the price data. "The way to fix that is to bring down costs in other areas."

"And so if we can't immediately address some of the rising prices that are from the supply chain, then let's cut child care costs in half, let's cut prescription drug pricing costs significantly," the Washington Democrat continued. "Let's actually make sure that we are dealing with healthcare costs in this country. Those are the things that are going to cut costs for Americans."

Jayapal's remarks came shortly after economists and analysts from leading U.S. rating agencies told Reuters that passage of the Build Back Better Act—which could get a vote in the House as early as Friday—would not add to inflation.

Charles Seville of Fitch Ratings said the $1.8 trillion reconciliation package and the bipartisan infrastructure measure that Biden signed into law earlier this week two pieces of legislation "will neither boost nor quell inflation much in the short-run."

Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody's Analytics, went further, arguing that the pair of bills will "take the edge off of inflation" by helping to "lift long-term economic growth via stronger productivity and labor force growth."

In a CNN op-ed on Wednesday, Zandi wrote that there's no reason to think "the government spending and tax breaks to support the economy through the pandemic, including the American Rescue Plan this past March, are somehow behind the higher inflation."

"There is also no good way to connect the dots between the Build Back Better agenda, which is currently being debated in Congress, and higher inflation," Zandi added. "The legislation provides support for public infrastructure and various social programs, and longer term, it is designed to lift the economy's growth potential, which will ease inflationary pressures."

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