The White House declined to say whether President Joe Biden's policies have contributed to the historic inflation people are suffering, repeatedly pointing to upward pressure on prices from the coronavirus and the war in Ukraine.
National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre both fielded numerous questions on the topic during Tuesday's press briefing, where they maintained that Biden's "focus" is on finding solutions for addressing inflation, not discussing the exact causes. Their comments came just hours after Biden held an uncharacteristic meeting with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on the state of the economy.
"His goal right now, and what he is frustrated about, is what the American people have to go through and what they are trying to deal with as they are around their kitchen table," Jean-Pierre suggested in one such exchange. "That is his focus right now."
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"He understands the hardship that people are going through. He understands how difficult it is for families. He understands that," she continued. "That's why he has done everything that he can to — and taken steps in many different ways to make sure that we lower costs."
Pressed by NBC News's Kelly O'Donnell, Jean-Pierre notably declined to say if the White House views inflation as a "problem," "hardship," or a "crisis."
"We're just in a difficult time right now with this inflation. That's why he's doing everything that he can," she responded. "It is something that he is aware of. This is clearly, right, as president, is something that is a priority to him."
Reporters specifically pressed Deese on if the White House's past messaging surrounding "transitory" inflation prevented the public from seeing just how serious of a problem inflation presented, but he pushed back, claiming that the post-pandemic era has seen "an uncertain and unexpected recovery period, historic in many ways."
"Our focus right now is on what is the right policy to bring prices down without sacrificing all the economic gains that we've made," he answered in another exchange. "That's our focus. That's where we're focused now, and we think that the policy choices that we make here going forward will be consequential in how quickly and effectively we can navigate through this next period."
Deese further claimed that Biden has "consistently explained to the American people where we are and where we need to go, and that continues to be the way that he approaches this issue."
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"We can address this from a position of strength, and that we can make this transition to stable growth without sacrificing all of those gains," he concluded. "That's what he will continue to do. It's certainly what we'll continue to do in serving him."