President Biden delivered remarks Monday morning at the White House to press Congress to act on both halves of his economic agenda, claiming momentum from an uptick in job growth over the course of his administration and pushing back on Republican critiques of his multi-trillion-dollar spending plans.
Mr. Biden cast his economic policies and his administration’s vaccination efforts as a key driver of accelerating growth, and he promised his remaining agenda items would help Americans work more and earn more money while restraining inflation by making the economy more productive.
The spending he has proposed, Mr. Biden said, “won’t increase inflation. It will take the pressure off inflation.”
Mr. Biden used the speech to champion the nearly $600 billion bipartisan infrastructure agreement he struck with Democratic and Republican centrists in the Senate last month. The deal is in jeopardy after Republicans balked at a key revenue source included in the initial deal: stepped-up enforcement efforts at the I.R.S. to catch tax cheats.
“Our economy has come a long way over the last six months,” Mr. Biden said. “It can’t slow down now.”
White House officials and Senate negotiators — including 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans — are working to salvage it by substituting a new revenue source.
“We are still negotiating,” the lead Republican negotiator, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “In fact, last night, I was negotiating some of the final details with the White House. And, later today, we will be having additional negotiations with the Republicans and Democrats who have come together to put this bill into a track that’s very unusual for Washington.”
Mr. Biden also used the speech to push for a second facet of his agenda, which Democrats are planning to pursue without Republican support: a $3.5 trillion plan, achieved through the budget reconciliation process that bypasses a Senate filibuster.
In describing the varied social and environmental initiatives he hoped to include in the plan, the president repeatedly stressed the need for government action as a means to raising living standards and creating jobs. His comments came on the day a committee of economists at the National Bureau of Economic Research declared that the Covid-19 recession officially ended more than a year ago, in April 2020, making it the shortest recession on record.
“What we can’t do is go back to the same old trickle-down theories that gave us nearly $2 trillion in deficit corporate tax giveaways, that did nothing to make our economy productive or resilient,” Mr. Biden said.
“Simply put, we can’t afford not to make these investments,” he added.
That plan contains the bulk of Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda that is not included in the bipartisan bill, like expanding educational access, building more affordable and energy-efficient housing, incentivizing low-carbon energy through tax credits and a wide range of other social programs meant to invest in workers.
Mr. Portman and other Republicans have ramped up criticism of that spending in recent days, claiming it will stoke more inflation for an economy that is already experiencing rapid price growth. Mr. Biden’s economic team has said repeatedly that inflation increases today are largely a product of the Covid-19 pandemic and will fade in the months or years to come.
Administration officials also say the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion plan will dampen price pressures by freeing up Americans to work more — through subsidized child care, national paid leave and other measures — and improving the efficiency of the economy.
Mr. Biden dismissed a question from a reporter after the speech about the potential for unchecked inflation, which he said no serious economist foresees.
He also told reporters that he planned to include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the $3.5 trillion bill because it was a political vehicle that could allow such a pathway to pass with only Democratic votes.
“The budget bill is an appropriate way to get around the filibuster,” he said.
Zach Montague contributed reporting.