Sensing voters’ economic anxieties, Biden takes action to protect consumers from surprise fees

President Biden speaks from a lectern on the White House campus.
“These steps will immediately start saving Americans collectively billions of dollars on unfair fees,” Biden said Wednesday at the White House.
(Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)
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President Biden, unwelcome in many battleground states over the final two weeks of the midterm election, spoke from the White House campus on Wednesday about his latest attempt to ease the economic burdens many Americans are facing.

With voters’ concerns about inflation and gas prices giving Republicans an edge as early voting is underway in many states, Biden announced that his administration is cracking down on surprise fees that drive up what people pay to their banks and for everything from food deliveries to hotels and airline tickets.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Biden said, would immediately prohibit banks from imposing surprise fees on certain overdrafts and deposits.


“These steps will immediately start saving Americans collectively billions of dollars on unfair fees,” Biden said, explaining that the White House Competition Council, which has been studying the issue for months, is working to develop additional rules for credit card companies and other industries that hide fees from consumers.

The fees, he said, are “taking real money out of the pockets of American families” and “benefit big corporations, not consumers, not working families. That changes now.”

Biden, who will travel to upstate New York on Thursday and host a fundraiser in Philadelphia on Friday, has largely avoided campaigning with Democratic candidates in the House and Senate races that will decide control of Congress. In a four-day trip to Western states earlier this month, he skipped Arizona and Nevada, where Democratic incumbents are fighting to hold on.

Next week, he’ll hold a rally in Florida, where few Democratic officials believe their party has a real shot at winning the gubernatorial or Senate race. With election day fast approaching, he will be off the trail for a second straight weekend, spending time at home in Delaware.

It’s not unusual for an incumbent president to be a drag on his party in his first midterm election, and Biden’s approval rating continues to sit in the low 40s due to broad frustrations with inflation.

At his event on surprise fees, he addressed the issue, asserting that the economic situation is improving.


“By the way, the price of gasoline continues to fall,” he said, noting that its cost had dropped three weeks in a row. “The most common price right now in America is $3.49 a gallon.”

Biden’s latest attempt to address the economic anxiety that may be tipping the election toward Republicans came just hours after what could prove to be a decisive moment in a Senate race that many expect to determine which party controls the chamber next year.

In Tuesday night’s hourlong debate between candidates for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat, Democrat John Fetterman struggledto clearly articulate his responses due to aphasia resulting from a stroke he suffered in May. If the debate deepens voters’ concerns about Fetterman’s ability to serve, Republican Mehmet Oz could eke out a win in a race where he was trailing by double digits just a few months ago.

Although scattershot polling and high early turnout make it hard to predict how the election will end up, both parties seem to view the battle in Pennsylvania as the tipping-point race that will determine who controls the Senate. It’s the one swing state where Biden, who has roots in Scranton, Pa., has campaigned on the ground.

Biden promotes the infrastructure bill’s benefits for Pennsylvania in an event with John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee in a race that could determine Senate control.

Oct. 20, 2022

Under some criticism for having focused his midterm appeals mostly on Democrats’ legislative accomplishments over the last two years, Biden looked to convey more of an understanding of the hardships many are facing. As he wrapped up his remarks, he offered an assessment of why people are fed up.

“One of the things that I think frustrates American people is they know the world’s in a bit of disarray,” he said.


“They know that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war has imposed an awful lot of strains on Europe and the rest of the world,” he went on, noting the impact on energy prices and food. “And they want to know, what are we doing?”

His administration’s actions on surprise fees, he said, would save families hundreds of dollars a year. And he vowed to continue pushing oil companies to pass on their savings to consumers now that the cost of oil has dropped.

“I’m optimistic,” he said. “It’s gonna take some time. And I appreciate the frustration of the American people.”

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