His only public appearance was a focus on the need for a reorganization of the supply chain for minerals that are used in electronics, batteries and other technologies.
Back-to-back events Tuesday highlighted Biden’s competing demands for attention as he enters the spring of an election year. These include the possibility of a devastating European land war, which will only increase inflation and other problems at home, while simultaneously managing a complex set of domestic issues and must-do tasks.
Biden sees the convergence of urgent domestic and foreign issues as a challenge to the sometimes smug assertions of past administrations that a president must be able “walk and chew gum simultaneously”.
Biden spoke Tuesday about the troubling overlap, as gasoline and oil prices rose on grim headlines from Ukraine. Biden announced sanctions against Russian banks, oligarchs, and financial institutions as well as Russia’s sovereign debt. This effectively cuts the country off from U.S. financial systems and European financial markets.
Biden said that he also wants to reduce the pain to Americans, as sanctions against Russia’s President Vladimir Putin could limit Russia’s oil and natural gas exports and increase global energy prices.
The president stated at the White House that he wanted to take strong action to ensure that the sanctions were not aimed at our economy but at Russia. We are closely monitoring the energy supply for disruptions. We are coordinating with major oil producers and consumers to make a joint investment in global stability and energy supply security.
This week, the White House is also reviewing nominees for the upcoming Supreme Court opening. The 40-year high inflation, a stagnant domestic agenda, a series of executive orders to enforce, infrastructure money to spend, and sagging approval ratings could all make implementation even more difficult. Even though the COVID pandemic seems to be diminishing, its impact is still felt.
Biden used the minerals conference to emphasize the importance of investing and not relying on China. California Gov. Gavin Newsom welcomed Biden to the minerals event Tuesday afternoon and expressed surprise that the virtual event had not been rescheduled due to Ukraine.
Newsom jokingly said, “I had an under-under that you were going to do this today.” “Thanks for not canceling with us.”
Biden’s plans for the future have been affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It takes time to barnstorm the country, rally support for Democrats, as he promised to do, to keep control of Congress in the midterm election. Inflation becomes more difficult as the U.S. escalates sanctions against Russia and its European allies.
Biden is also in a holding position due to his plans to increase sanctions to counter any further aggression by Putin.
Cal Jillson, a Southern Methodist University political scientist in Dallas, said that Putin’s control over when, how, and to what extent he invades places Biden in a difficult spot. “Putin seems like he is in complete control.”
This removes the issue that Americans previously believed Biden should prioritize: inflation. According to the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 68% Americans ranked the economy as their top priority. 24% rated the cost of living their top priority.
It is hard to predict how the Ukraine crisis will unfold and what this means for Biden’s agenda. Higher commodity and energy prices could mean that the crisis in Ukraine is short-lived or that there will be a long-term disruption due to sanctions against Russia. This would impact oil, natural gas and nickel supplies.
William Galston, a Brookings Institution senior fellow in governance studies, said that “we’re chasing after a moving target”.
Putin could be blamed for higher prices, as Biden might easily do. The inflationary run-up is predated the tensions in Europe and could make voters skeptical. According to AAA, U.S. gasoline prices have increased by 6% in the last month but are up 33% compared to a year ago.
Galston stated that there has been a nearly a year of high inflation and higher gas prices. This cannot be attributed solely to foreign policy. “And in these circumstances it’s not clear that an all-out effort to shift the focus of inflation to Russia would be credible.”
Republican lawmakers claim that Biden’s spending plans are the true trigger of inflation. They encourage Biden to immediately apply sanctions against Russia to deter Putin. This could push prices higher.
Senator Republican Leader Mitch McConnell stated in a statement that “This should start, but not end with devastating sanctions against Kremlin or its enablers.” “The president should not waste any time using his vast existing authority to impose these expenses.”
The markets for natural gas and other commodities, such as corn, wheat, and aluminum — all commodities that are at risk of being invaded — have become volatile and hypersensitive, in addition to oil.
Higher prices could cause inflation to rise above 7.5% annually. This comes at a time when Biden is struggling to secure enough support for expanded child tax credit and child care subsidies. West Virginia Senator Manchin is cautious about additional spending.
But families will need relief, and that makes Biden’s domestic agenda even more urgent, according to Joe Brusuelas (chief economist at RSM), who said that inflation could rise above 10% due to the economic shock caused by the war in Ukraine.
Brusuelas suggested that renewing the recently expired child tax credit might be the best solution. This credit would provide additional funds for families each month to protect them from price rises. It would be an immediate source of funds, which would contrast with proposed changes to federal regulation and new infrastructure spending in order to lower price pressures.
“We have a program that can be quickly revived to provide cash to stressed households and cushion adjustment caused by Vladimir Putin’s external adventures,” Brusuelas stated. “It will be the American middle and working class that bear the brunt of the adjustment caused by another European conflict.”