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‘Cynical and Craven’ Republicans Pin Gas Prices on President Biden, Not Putin

‘Cynical and Craven’ Republicans Pin Gas Prices on President Biden, Not Putin

Since Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine last month, Republicans have honed a misleading message that America achieved “energy independence” under Donald Trump only for it to be squandered by President Joe Biden, whose “preoccupation” with the climate crisis hurt domestic production, drove fuel prices up and strengthened oil-rich rivals such as Russia.

But even as Republicans have also expressed solidarity with President Biden’s stance on Russia with one side of their mouths, the GOP is launching partisan attacks against the President with the other side. The GOP has seized on soaring US gas prices to exploit the tragedy in Ukraine for its own political benefit, but political critics say the false messaging may come back to bite them in November.

The GOP’s argument was amplified this week when gas prices hit at a record average of $4.17 per gallon and President Biden announced a ban on US imports of Russian oil. The President warned that while the move would hurt Vladimir Putin, “there will be a cost as well here in the United States”, and anticipated criticism by branding it “Putin’s price hike”.

Factcheckers have pointed out that the main cause of increasing gas prices over the past year is disruptions to global supply and demand following the coronavirus pandemic. Only a 10th of the Keystone XL pipeline was complete when Biden canceled it and it was not likely to become operational until 2023 at the earliest. Politifact found that domestic oil production in Biden’s first year was on par with 2020 and higher than in three of the four years that Trump was president. The White House has also pointed out that 9,000 approved drilling permits are not being used. But none of this has prevented Republicans from fixating on the issue in ways that Democrats find deeply disingenuous.

 

Opinion polls suggest that President Biden, like other western leaders, has received a boost from his response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But inflation is likely to keep rising and prove potent in November’s midterm elections. The National Republican Congressional Committee has reportedly released attack ads against 10 House Democrats over gas prices.

Democrats are aware that the issue could weigh heavily on midterm voters. “The facts don’t matter much here,” acknowledged Democratic strategist Bob Shrum. If gas prices are really high, that becomes a problem for Democrats in the midterms because they’re in office. It’s just a natural tendency to blame someone under those circumstances.”

But he added: “It’s preposterous to think this is Biden’s fault. He hasn’t done anything that would account for high gas prices at this point. It’s the Russians’ fault but the Republicans want to ban Russian oil and then blame Biden for the shortfall in supplies and therefore the rise in prices. It’s cynical, obvious, and opportunistic.”

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