As consumer prices in the United States jumped to record levels—and as congressional Democrats planned a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure proposal—Rep. Kim Schrier (D., Wash.) said her party's costly stimulus spending drove inflation.
Schrier acknowledged during a June telephone town hall that Democrats' coronavirus stimulus spending led to "a lot more people buying things," which she said will "cause prices to go up." She made the statement after a constituent asked the Democrat "what's being done about inflation with the government spending gobs and gobs of money," expressing concern the trend "devalues the currency" and "makes wild swings in commodities."
"We knew that there was a possibility that this could lead to inflation.... I know it feels—I feel it," Schrier said. "We all feel it a little bit, that everything feels a little more expensive. On top of that, gas is more expensive."
Schrier's admission came as the consumer price index, which measures inflation, rose nearly 1 percent in June, marking the largest one-month surge in 13 years. It also came as Democrats floated a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure package without the support of Republicans. Despite her unease with rising prices, Schrier professed her support for "more infrastructure," including "clean energy" spending and "investments in wind and solar."
While Schrier argued sky-high inflation "should settle down," economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal in July contended price increases are "here to stay for years." The trend could hurt Schrier—a swing-district Democrat who held her seat by a slim, 3-point margin in November—as she looks to fend off another tough reelection challenge in 2022. A July poll in New Hampshire found 83 percent of voters are concerned about inflation.
Job Creators Network president and CEO Alfredo Ortiz accused President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats of "surrendering to their left-wing base and growing the size of government."
"Taxpayer money isn't monopoly money, and with inflation surging, it's time for Biden and the Democrats to do a course correction," he said in a statement.
Schrier did not return a request for comment.
Both Republicans and Democrats voiced concerns that Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus bill could cause price spikes before it passed in March. Harvard economist Larry Summers, who served as former president Barack Obama's National Economic Council director, said the legislation could "set off inflationary pressures of a kind we have not seen in a generation." In March, Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) echoed Summers's warning, saying "energy prices will go up, car prices will go up" as a result of the bill. Both gasoline and used cars are 45 percent more expensive than in 2020, according to Labor Department data.
Schrier also addressed Democrats' enhanced unemployment benefits during her June town hall. A constituent noted that he is "struggling" to find workers as an employer "because the money is good enough now where not as many people are looking for work." Schrier said her office "heard from a lot of people around the district that they are having trouble hiring," a problem that she attributed in part to "the influence of having the expanded unemployment benefits."
"And good luck finding more employees!" she later said.
Former Army Ranger Jesse Jensen and former Washington attorney general nominee Matt Larkin have launched campaigns to challenge Schrier from the right next year. Jensen narrowly lost to the Democrat in November despite raising just $852,000 to Schrier's $5.4 million.