(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden will on Monday highlight his administration’s efforts to combat inflation as the fastest price increases in four decades endangered Democrats’ political future.
He’ll meet with a group of Cabinet secretaries and regulators the White House calls his “Competition Council” to promote the group’s progress on an executive order he signed in July to combat excessive business consolidation.
His administration has also worked with ports, truckers and labor unions to ease supply-chain bottlenecks that have contributed to rising prices, though the president’s top economic advisers concede the government can’t do much to influence the basic forces of supply and demand.
In-person participants for Monday’s meeting at the White House include Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler and Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division Jonathan Kanter, according to a White House official.
Inflation emerged last year as Biden’s topmost economic and political concern, with rising prices for everyday needs — including energy, food, homes and cars — weighing heavily on his approval ratings. His administration has struggled to respond, and spiraling prices are poised to help deliver control of one or both chambers of Congress to Republicans in November’s midterm elections.
The White House official pointed to several accomplishments that stem from Biden’s July order, including a Department of Health and Human Services’ proposed rule that would require hearing aids be sold without a prescription. The agency estimates the rule will cut prices for the devices from thousands of dollars to hundreds.
The health department is also implementing the No Surprises Act, signed into law by former President Donald Trump which requires hospitals as of Jan. 1 to more conveniently disclose their prices to consumers or face dramatically increased federal fines.
The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission announced last week that they are joining forces to modernize rules on mergers and prevent anticompetitive deals, and Justice is also examining guidelines for bank mergers
The Transportation Department has secured refunds for tens of thousands of travelers who weren’t able to get their money back during the pandemic, the official noted. It’s also working on regulations that would require airlines to refund fees for baggage that’s delayed or for services that aren’t successfully delivered, such as WiFi and seat selection.
The executive order asked the Federal Trade Commission to consider regulating against what it described as “unfair anticompetitive restrictions on third-party repair or self-repair of items.” The agency voted unanimously to step up its enforcement of repair restrictions and, in turn, Apple Inc (NASDAQ:). and Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ:) announced modifications to their strict repair policies.
The administration estimates more flexible policies mean Americans could save tens of millions of dollars on repairs and replacements, the official said.
Biden agencies are also working to block the merger of Aon (NYSE:) Plc and Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ:) Plc, two of the three largest U.S. insurance brokers, and of two major North American railroads, Canadian National Railway (TSX:) Co. and Kansas City Southern (NYSE:) Railway, the official noted.
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