Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell faced questions about inflation from the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban affairs committee. Wednesday’s two-day hearing began as inflation set a new 40-year high last month and the national average price for a gallon of gas topped $5 for the first time ever last week.
“Inflation remains well above our longer-run goal of 2 percent,” Powell said in his opening statement. “Over coming months, we will be looking for compelling evidence that inflation is moving down, consistent with inflation returning to 2 percent.”
After opening statements, Powell faced skeptical questions from members of both parties on the Senate committee about the Fed’s ability to tame inflation. Some of the Democratic members expressed concern recent rate hikes could lead to a recession similar to the one caused by the housing market crash of 2008.
“As interest rates rise and financial stability risks increase, it is even more important to keep a close watch on the biggest banks, so that excessive risk-taking doesn’t create even more problems,” Senate Banking Committee Chair Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said in his opening statement. “I urge you to remember the millions of working Americans who are counting on you.”
Republicans also criticized the Fed’s actions, but for different reasons. They argued the Fed moved too slowly to address inflation and needs to speed up future rate hikes.
“Though I am pleased you have begun taking the drastic action necessary to right the U.S. economy – these actions are long-overdue and monetary policy remains too loose,” committee ranking member Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) said in his opening statement. “Unless the Fed works quickly to move away from their discretion-based monetary policy approach that has remained consistently well-behind the curve, I am concerned the Fed will lose its credibility to effectively manage the national economic situation.”
At Wednesday’s hearing, Powell appeared to break from the Biden administration line regarding the cause of higher prices. The administration has frequently referred to rising gas prices as “Putin’s price hike.”
“Just look at the facts: Since the start of the war in Ukraine this year, gas prices have risen by almost $2.00 a gallon in the United States, and sometimes more, around the world,” Biden said Wednesday.
According to this tweet from Job Creators Network, Powell was asked if “the war in Ukraine is the primary driver of inflation in America.” Powell responded “no – inflation was high certainly before the war in Ukraine broke out.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.