Larry Summers, who served as a top economic adviser to former President Obama, met with top White House economic officials Brian Deese and Cecilia Rouse on Tuesday to discuss President Biden’s agenda.
A White House official confirmed the meeting took place and said the group discussed the bipartisan infrastructure framework Biden endorsed last month as well as “the importance of passing the President’s full Build Back Better agenda.” The meeting was first reported by Bloomberg News.
Summers, who served as Treasury secretary under former President Clinton, has been the most prominent Democratic critic of Biden’s economic agenda. He blasted the size of the March economic relief bill and has warned that the U.S. could be on track for uncontrollable inflation.
His visit to the White House came hours after the Labor Department reported a 0.9 percent increase in consumer prices last month, nearly double the 0.5 percent consensus increase projected by analysts. Even so, many economists expect inflation to cool off later this year as several short-term factors pushing prices higher begin to ease. White House and Federal Reserve officials have described the inflation as transitory.
Republican lawmakers have frequently invoked Summers’s criticisms when blasting Biden’s plans for trillions in further spending, often putting White House and Fed officials on the defensive.
While Summers has warned about inflation related to the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, he has expressed support for Biden’s broader economic agenda, including the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure framework. Summers told Axios last month that it “provides an epic opportunity for productivity enhancement.”
Summers also threw his support behind Biden’s $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan earlier this year, tweeting in April that he didn’t believe the proposed investments would exacerbate the threat of the economy overheating. The jobs plan is part of Biden’s broader $4 trillion economic agenda, which also includes proposals to expand access to free prekindergarten and community college.
It’s unclear whether Summers’s concerns about inflation or his public warnings came up during the meeting.
The meeting isn’t the first time that White House officials have made contact with Summers since Biden took office. The Washington Post reported last month that Biden phoned Summers in late May to ask him to explain his concerns and solicit input.