White House chief of staff Ron Klain privately lamented that Americans were more concerned about high gasoline and food prices than free pre-K and building new infrastructure, according to an upcoming book.
Klain’s comments came on Oct. 30, 2021, at the White House during a conversation with Chris Whipple, who recorded them in his forthcoming book “The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House.”
Fox News Digital obtained an advance copy of the book, which is set to go on sale on Jan. 17, 2023, nearly two years after President Biden took office. At the time of Klain’s remarks, Biden was working with lawmakers to pass his signature Build Back Better Act, a nearly $2 trillion social and climate spending package, but was forced to focus on increasing inflation and consumer prices.
“The most frustrating part is that we are in this morass on Capitol Hill, no margin for error, and it sucks up so much of our time and so much energy and so much political drama,” Klain reportedly said. “And it’s a very important agenda. It’s an agenda we have to fight for, an agenda we believe in. And in the long run, it matters a lot.”
President Biden and White House chief of staff Ron Klain attend a Cabinet meeting on March 24, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
“But right now, people wish we were more focused on gas prices and hamburger prices than whether or not we’re going to build bridges or have free pre-K,” Klain added.
Days after he made the comment, the average price of gasoline nationwide neared $3.40 per gallon, continuing its rapid upward trend, federal data showed. And in October 2021, the Consumer Price Index, a common tool to measure economy-wide inflation, surged 6.2% year over year, with food prices rising 5.3% and energy prices rising a whopping 30%, according to the Department of Labor.
Under pressure to act on the high pump prices, Biden ordered the Department of Energy on Nov. 23, 2021, to accelerate the release of 18 million barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and release an additional 32 million barrels from the stockpile as well.
White House chief of staff Ron Klain’s comments were recorded in the forthcoming book "The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House" by author Chris Whipple. (Scribner/Simon & Schuster)
Since then, the president has ordered more than 200 million additional barrels to be released from the reserve in his effort to stem increasing gas prices. Prices at the pump set a record in June, soaring past $5 per gallon, but have since fallen to about $3.10 a gallon.
Inflation has also continued to rise, hitting 9.1% in June and staying far higher than historical levels through November.
Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., effectively killed the Build Back Better Act in December 2021, saying he couldn’t vote for the bill given its high price tag and rising inflation levels. In February, he said the bill was “dead.”
The White House pushed back in December 2021, arguing the legislation is fully paid for and is “the most fiscally responsible major bill that Congress has considered in years.”
President Biden shakes hands with White House chief of staff Ron Klain alongside Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on June 30, 2021. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
“The other part of the Build — the President’s Build Back Better Agenda that’s important, as you’re talking about rising costs for people: you know, we have — we have a proposal — the president has a proposal, many Democrats across the board support it, which is — that will lower costs for Americans across the country,” former White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Feb. 1.
“That’s the Build Back Better plan, and that’s something that we know will help lower costs for families.”
Biden and Manchin, along with other Democratic leaders, ultimately agreed to move forward with the Inflation Reduction Act over the summer.
Critics blasted the bill for having no impact on high consumer prices and for being a slimmed down version of the Build Back Better Act.
The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Thomas Catenacci is a politics writer for Fox News Digital.