Inflation and COVID place Biden behind key allies: The Note

Biden acknowledged "inflation is up," but his policies haven't changed much.

February 11, 2022, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

It's not that Democrats don't get the magnitude of the political challenges ahead.

It might be, though, that they're not sure what can be done to change fortunes ahead of the midterms. It might also be that President Joe Biden lags behind key party leaders in recognizing the severity of the issues at hand and adjusting accordingly.

A week that kept Republican divisions in the spotlight saw prominent Democrats break with the White House in quieter yet still significant ways.

A parade of Democratic governors announced the winding down of COVID mask mandates. That came despite the Biden administration's guidance to mask up when possible -- and despite the kinds of warnings from medical professionals that in the past held significant sway over blue-state policies.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks about prescription drug costs at the Daniel Technology Center of Germanna Community College's Culpeper Campus, Feb. 10, 2022, in Culpeper, Va.
President Joe Biden speaks about prescription drug costs at the Daniel Technology Center of Germanna Community College's Culpeper Campus, Feb. 10, 2022, in Culpeper, Va.
Alex Brandon/AP

New inflation numbers, meanwhile, underscore how difficult it will be for Democrats to claim progress on the economy. Biden on Thursday acknowledged that "inflation is up" and that families feel the burden, but his policy prescriptions have been largely unchanged.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. -- still the key to any substantive bill passing the Senate -- used the numbers to underscore a point he's long made about the perils of additional spending: "You don't throw more fuel on the fire."

A group of senators in tight reelection races are among the Democrats pushing to suspend the federal gas tax through the rest of the year, in yet another recognition of the political potency of rising prices.

The president is a few weeks removed from his vow to take his case for Democrats around the country this year. At the moment, what he's selling isn't the same as what many of those Democrats think voters want to buy.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

In a rare act of bipartisanship, the Senate has passed a bill that allows a clearer path to justice for victims of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.

The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act passed Thursday with no audible objection. The legislation prohibits clauses in employment contracts that require sexual harassment and assault cases to be addressed privately in arbitration.

PHOTO: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 10, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 10, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Lawmakers argued that the clauses shielded serial offenders from accountability and that millions of Americans were bound to them. The legislation will be retroactive, invalidating any previous forced arbitration clauses.

"Estimates suggest that more than 60 million Americans and 57.6% of women workers are subject to arbitration clauses and many don't even know it because the clauses were written in fine print," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said. "This victory is for them. By passing this legislation we are giving these workers a new path to justice."

Soon, individuals will be able to choose between pursuing sexual assault and harassment cases in court or going to arbitration to resolve allegations. The passage is a significant workplace reform and comes years after the inception of the #MeToo movement, which brought issues surrounding sexual assault to the forefront.

The bill now heads to Biden's desk for signage.

The TIP with Brittany Shepherd

Incumbent Republicans' devotion to former President Donald Trump and his influence in competitive midterm primary races is on full display in South Carolina.

Earlier this week, the former president issued an endorsement of South Carolina Republican candidate Katie Arrington, who is running to unseat Charleston region Rep. Nancy Mace. Mace previously declined to embrace the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump and voted to certify the Electoral College results that reinforced Biden's victory.

PHOTO: South Carolina Rep. Katie Arrington campaigns after voting for herself in the primary election, June 12, 2018 at Bethany United Methodist Church in Summerville, S.C.
South Carolina Rep. Katie Arrington campaigns after voting for herself in the primary election, June 12, 2018 at Bethany United Methodist Church in Summerville, S.C.
Kathryn Ziesig/The Post And Courier via AP, FILE

Arrington -- who launched her campaign just this week -- has slammed Mace (who previously worked for the Trump campaign in the 2016 campaign cycle) as a "sellout" who abandoned Trump and the Republican party. In his endorsement of Arrington on Wednesday, Trump pilloried Mace as "disloyal" and "an absolutely terrible candidate."

But that criticism didn't stop Mace from prostrating herself in front of Trump -- sort of. On Thursday morning, Mace tweeted a video of herself standing in front of Trump Tower in Manhattan, stressing her early support of the former president and his conservative values, despite Trump's full-throated condemnation of her candidacy.

Mace's move showcases what lengths candidates may go to solidify love from Trump's fervent supporters.

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

229. That's the number of primary polls we've counted in 2022 Senate, House and gubernatorial primaries so far. But while that number might sound impressive, the majority are unfortunately internal polls, sponsored by either a candidate running in the race or an outside group that has endorsed one of the candidates. As FiveThirtyEight's Nathaniel Rakich writes, that makes it really hard to understand the state of play in these primaries, as internal polls often have an agenda. Read more from Nathaniel on what internal polls can (and can't) tell us about the primaries.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Start Here begins Friday morning with a deep dive on inflation and rising consumer prices with ABC's Elizabeth Schulze. Then, ABC's Jonathan Karl talks about new reporting involving former President Trump's handling of White House documents. And with Super Bowl 2022 just days away, we talk to one expert about the state of sports betting in the U.S. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS WEEKEND

  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds a briefing at 2 p.m.
  • Sunday on ABC's "This Week": Anchor George Stephanopoulos goes one-on-one exclusively with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.). Plus, the Powerhouse Roundtable discusses all the week's politics with former New Jersey Governor and ABC News Contributor Chris Christie, former DNC Chair and ABC News Contributor Donna Brazile, Dispatch Staff Writer and ABC News Contributor Sarah Isgur and Center for American Progress President & CEO Patrick Gaspard.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back Monday for the latest.

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