Biden finds a scapegoat for inflation, high gasoline prices: Vladimir Putin

Biden finds a scapegoat for inflation, high gasoline prices: Vladimir Putin

PHILADELPHIA — President Biden on Friday put the blame squarely on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine for surging inflation and rising gas prices, a pair of domestic crises that vexed his administration before the invasion.

“Make no mistake, inflation is largely the fault of Putin,” Mr. Biden said at the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference in Philadelphia.

“It wasn’t anything we did,” he told the crowd of Democrats.

Consumer prices increased 7.9% in the past year, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department. The higher prices were driven largely by surges in the cost of gasoline, housing and consumer goods.

Gas prices reached an average of $4.33 per gallon, the highest total ever recorded, according to data from AAA.

With the midterm elections less than eight months away, Mr. Biden wants to deflect the blame for rising prices to protect his Democrats, who are in danger of losing the majorities in the House and Senate. His approval ratings have been dragged down for months by voters’ frustration with inflation, even as they give him higher marks as of late for his handling of the Ukraine crisis.

Mr. Biden told the friendly crowd in Philly that gas prices went up 75 cents the moment Mr. Putin massed troops on the Ukraine border in January.

Earlier this week, Mr. Biden announced a ban on Russian oil, which also sent gas prices soaring, though lawmakers on both sides of the aisle applauded the ban as the right move. At the time, Mr. Biden warned that gas prices in the U.S. would go higher.

Mr. Biden defended his decision to abandon the Keystone XL pipeline, an oil line that could have delivered as much as 700,000 barrels of oil per day into the U.S. from Canada.

Since the Ukrainian crisis started, Republicans and Canadian officials have urged Mr. Biden to restart construction on the stalled pipeline as the U.S. seeks to boost its oil supply.

He disputed that there was a link between shuttering the Keystone XL Pipeline and rising gas prices.

“Folks, let’s get something straight here, the Keystone Pipeline was two years away. It had been 2% finished,” Mr. Biden said. “Give me a break.”

Instead, Mr. Biden pointed a finger at oil companies, saying they have over 7,000 permits to drill for oil but aren’t using them. He accused the oil companies of slowing drilling during the crisis to increase profits.

Mr. Biden said oil companies are using their profits to buy back their stock, inflating the values rather than reinvesting those proceeds into boosting supply.

He said the companies have “every capacity” to drill if they wanted to do so.

More than 100 members of the House Democratic caucus attended the speech, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries of New York.

Members of Congress’ far-left “Squad” including Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts also attended. They have at times been critical of the Biden administration for not pushing a more progressive environmental agenda.

Despite differences within the caucus, the mood at the speech was cheerful, with the president receiving a standing ovation upon his entrance and after the speech.

— Jeff Mordock reported from Washington.