What to Know in Washington: High Grocery Costs Put Biden in Bind

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President Joe Biden is regularly promoting signs of a strengthening economy and easing inflation, but when it comes to the indicator closest to home, it’s a tough sell.

The surge in grocery prices since just before the Covid lockdown has been stunning: up more than 25%, a full 5 percentage points more than consumer prices overall.

The president has tried channeling consumers’ ire toward food companies and grocery chains, accusing giants in the industry of abusing market power to increase profit margins at the expense of customers. And he’s tried commiserating, complaining about packaged food “shrinkflation” in his State of the Union address.

But Americans’ regular trips to the grocery store—three times a week for the average household in the US—are a powerful driver of economic discontent, constantly reminding consumers of higher costs of feeding a family.

The outsized increase in the cost of food is hurting support for Biden, especially among crucial Democratic constituencies such as minority groups. Low-income and lower-middle class families are squeezed hardest because they spend a larger share of their income on food.

Kendra Cotton, head of the New Georgia Project, which seeks to register voters among marginalized groups, is hearing especially from Black Americans about the cost of everyday expenses like groceries. Often, they blame the president, regardless of how much control he has, she said.

In Georgia, a pivotal election battleground, lower-income voters have swung sharply against Biden—and that mirrors nationwide trends. “You’ll hear a lot of commentary that government ‘hasn’t done jack for me,’” Cotton said. Read more from Michael Sasso, Deena Shanker, Jaewon Kang, and Michelle Jamrisko.


  • The president plans to deliver remarks to commemorate Women’s History Month at the White House around 11:30 a.m.
  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will deliver a briefing around 1:30 p.m.


Also Happening on the Hill

FIGHTS over immigration policy have once again held up a major funding package, leaving Congress little time to meet a Friday night deadline to avoid a partial shutdown. Lawmakers have until Friday night to finish work on six appropriations bills.

  • Republicans rejected a proposal for over $1.5 billion for border security and other needs, according to a White House official who spoke anonymously Sunday to discuss the status of talks.
  • A spokesperson for Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), said Republicans were still working toward a deal that “reprioritizes DHS funding towards enforcing border and immigration laws.”Read more.

INVESTORS in TikTok’s Chinese parent company stand to benefit if it sold the app because divestment would remove a source of uncertainty, said Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), who spearheaded a House-passed bill aimed at ByteDance. Read more.

CONSTRUCTION COMPANY CATERPILLAR skirted tax charges over its offshore profit-shifting strategy with the help of “egregious political interference” from former Attorney General William Barr, investigators on the Senate Finance Committee alleged. Read more.

People, Power, and Politics

Donald Trump in Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

OHIO REPUBLICANS will determine tomorrow what the degree of difficulty will be for swing-seat Democrats trying to keep their jobs on Capitol Hill. A change of Senate control is within reach of the GOP—and a flip of the House is achievable by Democrats this fall.

  • The attributes of candidates who make it onto the November ballot will be an important barometer of the downballot races ahead in this presidential election year.
  • In addition to the battleground races, tomorrow will bring special elections in Ohio and California, plus some primaries that will test the durability of incumbents in Illinois. Read more.

DONALD TRUMP said he’d hit cars made in Mexico by Chinese firms with a 100% tariff, double the levy he has previously said he would put on such automobiles. He continued by saying it would be a “bloodbath” if he didn’t win this year’s election.

  • The Biden campaign criticized the remarks, pointing to the attack by rioters on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, after Trump lost his first reelection bid. Read more.
  • Pence Snub: Former Vice President Mike Pence said he won’t endorse Trump, in a rebuke of his former running mate. He added he wouldn’t vote for Biden. Read more.

THE BIDEN CAMPAIGN raised over $53 million in February, a record amount for that month. The president and his party ended the month with $155 million cash on hand, the most ever amassed for a Democrat at this point in the calendar. Read more.

SAM BANKMAN-FRIED conjured many ideas to rehabilitate his image and launch a new crypto exchange in the wake of FTX’s bankruptcy. Declaring himself as an anti-woke Republican on Tucker Carlson’s show appears to have been one of them. Read more.

A FEDERAL PANEL of three judges on the Ninth Circuit sided with state requirements for campaign finance disclosures and political advertisements, checking opponents of an aggressive ballot measure that regulated political speech in Alaska. Read more.

Defense & Foreign Affairs

Antony Blinken in Seoul today. Photo by Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

ANTONY BLINKEN warned that authoritarian regimes were going to meddle in a flurry of elections and the US would keep pressing to disrupt misinformation efforts from China and Russia. “Citizens and candidates will face a flood of falsehoods that suffocate serious civic debate,” he said.

  • The secretary of state spoke at the Summit for Democracy in Seoul today as large democracies around the world—from India and Indonesia to the US and UK—are set to hold elections. Read more.
  • AI Surveillance: Blinken also said that some governments are employing artificial intelligence to surveil their citizens, harass journalists, and spread disinformation. Read more.

AMERICA’S TOP MILITARY OFFICIAL got a whirlwind tour of a Lockheed Martin plant as the Pentagon attempts to assure contractors that it will provide predictable signals while it seeks more funding to send weapons to Ukraine. Read more.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU shot back at remarks by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)—who last week said elections in Israel were needed to remove the current prime minister and his government—calling the comments “inappropriate.” Read more.

VLADIMIR PUTIN said Russia will not be stopped from pursuing its goals after a presidential election whose outcome was pre-determined handed him a record level of support: 87.3% with almost all votes counted in the election that ended Sunday. Read more.

CHINA seems to be toning down its military pressure on Taiwan, security officials from the self-governed island said on condition of anonymity, but they warned Beijing will still likely continue its diplomatic isolation campaign. Read more.

What Else We’re Watching

WOMEN’S HEALTH research standards would be strengthened under an executive order the White House is preparing in an effort to close the gap on long-standing disparities, adding to a $12 billion request to Congress for a women’s health fund at the NIH.

  • As part of the order, the Health and Human Services Department is instructed to research ways to employ artificial intelligence toward advancing women’s health research. Read more.
  • Abortion Pill: The anti-abortion movement is rallying behind the argument that a more than 150-year-old law bans the mailing of abortion pills—a battle currently before the Supreme Court. Read more.

THE WHITE HOUSE is preparing to roll out the toughest-ever limits on pollution from the nation’s cars and light trucks after making changes likely to mollify some automakers. Emissions limits are set to be finalized by the EPA within days. Read more.

FEDERAL PROSECUTORS investigating the Jan. 5 midair blowout of a Boeing door plug on an Alaska Airlines flight are casting a wide net to gather information and documents, sending subpoenas, and using a grand jury based in Seattle. Read more.

THE SUPREME COURT will again try to draw a delicate line in balancing competing online speech rights, this time examining whether the Biden administration went too far in trying to combat social media disinformation regarding Covid-19 and the 2020 election. Read more.

TENS OF THOUSANDS of immigrants in jobs like health care, construction, and delivery may risk losing their employment authorization in a matter of weeks without Biden administration action on massive backlogs for work permit renewals, advocates warned. Read more.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jeannie Baumann at jbaumann@bloombergindustry.com; Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com

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