Biden offers midterm preview on campaign-style visit to Ohio

CLEVELAND — President Biden, struggling to deal with high inflation that has clouded prospects for his party’s chances in the midterm elections, came to the swinging state on Wednesday and stepped up his rhetoric in what was an event of more partisan campaign style that provided insight into how Biden will run the upcoming election.

Speaking before an audience of unionized workers, where he touted the benefits his policies will have on pension plans, Biden offered a more precise distillation of how he views the Republican Party and called out several Republican senators by their name for voting against some of his policies not out of principle but out of fear.

“They’re scared of… scared of — because the Trumpers would literally take them out,” Biden said. “Not a joke. That’s how bad it got.

He ridiculed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for threatening to defeat legislation to boost semiconductor manufacturing. He called a plan by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) “shameful.” And he sparked boos from the crowd at the mention of the name of Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (RS.C.).

“Unfortunately, it’s probably Trump calling me,” Biden said of former President Donald Trump when a cellphone rang in the audience.

Biden came to a Cleveland high school to announce new protections that could help some 3 million Americans whose retirement benefits have faced potential insolvency amid the financial fallout from the pandemic. Help for multi-employer pension plans was included in the coronavirus relief package that Biden signed into law last year.

But he often strayed from the preparation text, injecting “not a joke” nine times, recounting his father’s expressions and walking around the stage as he mounted a defense of his handling of the economy.

“You all remember what the economy was like when I was elected – a country in the midst of a pandemic with no real plan to get out of it. Millions of people without jobs, without families or cars, remember, literally for miles,” he said.

“The previous administration lost more jobs under its watch than any administration since Herbert Hoover – that’s a fact,” Biden added. “All based on a failed trickle-down economy to benefit the wealthiest Americans.”

He lingered in the room long after his speech was over, spending 45 minutes mingling with attendees, taking selfies and shaking hands.

But Biden’s appearance also served as a reminder of some of the political challenges he faces. A politician who has long touted himself as a sought-after surrogate — and a man with blue-collar appeal in states like Ohio — is a less desirable commodity right now for some within his party.

The state’s two most prominent Democratic candidates — U.S. Senate nominee Tim Ryan and gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley — both cited scheduling conflicts for not showing up Wednesday.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, interviewed by Air Force One reporters on the way to Cleveland, said they were in close contact with the candidates and said they supported some administration actions that were announced during the trip. .

“I just listed a long list of other elected officials who will be with him on this trip,” she said, which included Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and several members of Congress. “I think that also counts for something.”

Asked why Biden kept coming to the state — it was his sixth trip to Ohio as president — when his approval ratings are low and the state is trending toward Republicans, Jean-Pierre replied, “He will go wherever he needs to go and speak directly to the American people. … I think it makes a difference for them to hear directly from their president.

The state highlights many issues that will be a factor in the upcoming election.

Biden has touted an Ohio-based Intel semiconductor factory – saying in his State of the Union address it’s “the ground on which America’s future will be built” – but the The $20 billion factory is on hold, with a July 22 groundbreaking ceremony canceled as it awaits clarification on legislation from Congress.

The murder of Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old black man who was shot dead by police in Akron, Ohio, has also sparked protests and new focus on Biden’s failure to do more to fight reform. policing and systemic inequalities. And after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wadethe state now prohibits abortion after six weeks.

Although Biden never mentioned abortion rights, he did address the semiconductor factory — and alluded to McConnell’s threat to thwart bipartisan legislation that would spur such manufacturing if the Democrats were relaunching a separate effort to pass energy and economy legislation.

“He’s going to block the passage of legislation that calls for an additional $100 billion to be invested in this state,” Biden said. “Friends, this is wrong. This is not right. And that’s why this election is going to be so important.

Biden also opened his remarks with a comment on Walker’s death, saying the FBI and others are investigating.

“If the evidence reveals potential violations of federal criminal laws, the Department of Justice will take appropriate action,” he said.

Much of his remarks, however, centered on labor unions, long a mainstay of Biden’s political base.

“There was one word you heard most often in my family. Not a joke,” Biden said. “The most important word was not unions. It was dignity, Dignity Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity.

Frank Grace, a local official with Teamsters Local 473, said he was grateful for Biden’s quick action to help union pensions. Some of his union members vote Republican and blame Biden — “mostly for gas prices” — but he sees some of those issues as beyond the president’s control.

“Yeah, the economy is a mess,” Grace said. “But it’s true for the whole world, coming out of the pandemic.”

Many in the crowd agreed. They are struggling with gas prices, they are worried about their retirement. But they’re not blaming Biden.

“Can I retire? When? And what will I do when I retire? said Tracy Radich, an elementary school teacher active in the teachers’ union.

“’The price of gas, the price of everything, it’s hard on everyone,’ she said. “But I don’t know how much of that you can put at the president’s feet.”

More than 200 multiemployer plans were on the verge of becoming insolvent in the short term as their investments struggled during economic crises, the White House said, which would impact nearly 3 million workers who had contributed to plans. of retirement.

Funding from the US bailout means that pension plans facing short-term insolvency, with potential benefit cuts for workers, will now remain solvent until 2051. In addition to preventing future pension plan cuts retirement, those who have already suffered cuts to their pensions will have those reversed, according to the White House.

“When unions are doing well, everyone is doing well,” Biden said. ” Everyone is well. Not a joke. Not a joke.

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