By Tami Luhby, CNN
Since there’s not too much a president can do unilaterally to combat inflation, Biden laid out several proposals to help families contend with rising prices. He pitched measures to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, energy and child care. He also touched on extending generous Affordable Care Act subsidies, providing more affordable housing, creating a universal pre-K program and expanding long-term care.
“My plan to fight inflation will lower your costs and lower the deficit,” said Biden.
His strategy, however, has one major problem: Biden already pushed for all these measures — and more — in his $1.75 trillion Build Back Better package. But Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia effectively put the bill on ice in December when he said he couldn’t support it, partly because he was concerned it would exacerbate the spike in inflation.
Manchin was none too impressed with the measures Biden outlined on Tuesday, signaling that he doesn’t buy the argument they’ll bring relief to struggling families.
“Inflation is the biggest thing on my mind in West Virginia,” Manchin told CNN. “I’ve never found you lower costs by spending money.”
Asked if he still considers the bill dead, Manchin replied, “There might be parts they want to talk about. I don’t know. That was just too far.”
Biden’s plan to lower costs
The Build Back Better proposal was not initially intended to fight inflation: It focused on expanding the social safety net, reducing income inequality and combating climate change.
In fact, many economists said the package could modestly add to inflation in the short term.
In his State of the Union address, Biden framed the proposals he highlighted as lowering Americans’ costs so they can better weather rising prices.
He cited the high price of prescriptions drugs, particularly insulin. It costs $10 to make insulin, but drug companies charge up to 30 times that amount, Biden said.
The President called for capping the cost of insulin at $35 a month, noting the drug companies will still make profits. He also reiterated his support for allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
Also, he touted that families would save an average of $500 a year by combating climate change through provisions such as tax credits to weatherize Americans’ homes and businesses and to buy electric vehicles, which would save drivers $80 a month because they wouldn’t have to buy gas.
And Biden pushed his proposal to limit child care costs for many working and middle class American families. They would pay no more than 7% of their income for care for their young kids.
“My plan would cut the cost of child care in half for most families and help parents, including millions of women who left the workforce during the pandemic because they couldn’t afford child care, to be able to get back to work, generating economic growth,” he said.
While Biden and congressional Democrats haven’t fully given up on trying to advance portions of the Build Back Better plan, the measures face an uphill climb in the Senate.
And the President still faces challenges in convincing Americans that he’s on top of inflation.
Only 47% of those who watched the speech said Biden did enough to address inflation in his remarks, while 53% said he did not, according to a CNN Poll conducted by SSRS.
The President put a different spin on the same policies he’s discussed before, said Marc Goldwein, senior vice president at the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
“I didn’t really hear anything that was, ‘This is a new way that we’re going to fight inflation through a different version of Build Back Better,'” Goldwein said, adding that Biden focused on how “we are going to help people deal with inflation.”
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CNN’s Ted Barrett and Ali Zaslav contributed to this report.