In North Carolina, Biden defends handling of inflation

Speaking at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, Biden promoted his efforts to strengthen U.S. supply chains, accelerate American production of semiconductors and ease dependence on foreign makers.

But he spent a considerable amount of his speech talking about his handling of the economy, a factor in a dip in his job approval rating that could spell trouble for Democrats in November congressional midterm elections.

Biden said job growth had accelerated in his first year in office, including 365,000 new manufacturing jobs, and that the unemployment rate had dropped sharply.

Dogging Biden, however, are persistent increases in prices across the board.

“I know that we’re still facing the challenge of high prices and inflation,” said Biden. “Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has driven up gas prices all over the world.” He said food prices have been impacted as well by a drop in exports of Ukraine wheat.

Biden called on Congress to give final approval to the Bipartisan Innovation Act to boost spending for emerging technologies and American manufacturing and to compete with China.

White House officials say Biden wants Congress to pass the legislation as soon as possible, and is heartened that lawmakers from both the House of Representatives and the Senate have begun working to iron out differences between each chamber’s version of the legislation, the official said.

“Congress needs to get this bill on my desk as quickly as possible. Our economic strength is on the line and national security as well is on the line,” Biden said.

Biden spoke after watching a four-legged robot named Spot march around a room at the university, an example of the research going on at the school. The robotic dog was said to be able to maneuver through complex environments to conduct remote missions.

Biden’s visit to a historically Black university in a competitive election state comes as a November Senate race there is expected to be among those that decide whether Biden’s Democratic Party retains their narrow control of Congress.

The president’s popularity has slipped, with his public approval standing near all-time lows at 41%, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll this week.

(Writing by Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Aurora Ellis)

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