NATIONAL NEWS

Biden tackles Trump and touts economic progress in Milwaukee visit

Dec 20, 2023, 2:10 AM | Updated: 5:46 pm

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council ...

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council in the Indian Treaty Room on the White House campus, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — President Joe Biden touted his administration’s support for minority-owned businesses and the replacement of lead pipes during a visit here on Wednesday while also swiping at Donald Trump’s rhetoric toward migrants and his ongoing lies about his election loss.

The trip showed how Biden is trying to juggle multiple political priorities in the critical battleground state of Wisconsin. Democrats want to generate excitement among nonwhite voters who are an important part of their coalition while also keeping the focus on Trump’s extremism, heightening a contrast that the White House hopes will secure a second term for Biden.

The Democratic president’s first stop upon arriving in Milwaukee was Hero Plumbing, which has replaced hundreds of lead pipes around the city. The work is part of a $15 billion nationwide initiative funded through bipartisan infrastructure legislation.

“Not only has our business grown, but we’re helping to save our community,” said the company’s owner, Rashawn Spivey.

Spivey rode with Biden to the Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce, where the president highlighted the pipe replacement program. He’s described it as a generation-changing opportunity to create good-paying union jobs while reducing brain-damaging exposure to lead in schools, childcare centers and more than 9 million U.S. homes that draw water from lead pipes.

“This is the United States of America, for God’s sake,” Biden said. “Everyone should be able to turn on a faucet and know whatever they drink is clean and pure and not have to worry about it.”

Biden also focused on his administration’s surge in federal assistance for minority-owned businesses and distressed communities, saying, “We’re leaving no one behind.”

The Small Business Administration in the last fiscal year backed 4,700 loans valued at $1.5 billion to Black-owned businesses. Under Biden, the SBA said it has more than doubled the number and total dollar amount of loans to Black-owned small businesses. The share of the SBA’s loans going to minority-owned businesses has increased from 23% to over 32% since 2020.

Under Trump, Biden said “minority-owned businesses found themselves last in line,” and he accused political opponents of a “full-on attack on Black economic opportunity”

Biden also criticized Trump for his recent comments that migrants were “poisoning the blood” of the country.

“I don’t believe, as the former president said again yesterday, that immigrants are polluting our blood,” Biden said. “The economy and our nation are stronger when we tap into the full range of talents in this nation.”

The trip to Wisconsin came one day after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Trump was ineligible for the ballot there. The decision, the first of its kind in U.S. history, will likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Biden said it was “self-evident” that Trump is an insurrectionist. However, he did not comment on the ruling itself.

“Whether the 14th Amendment applies or not, we’ll let the court make that decision,” Biden told reporters on the tarmac after stepping off Air Force One in Milwaukee. “But he certainly supported an insurrection. There’s no question about it. None. Zero. And he seems to be doubling down on it.”

Trump has refused to back down from his lies that voter fraud cost him the 2020 election, and he’s pledged to pardon Jan. 6 rioters.

Biden’s campaign was circumspect when asked about the Colorado ruling in a call with reporters.

“What I will say is that the president looks forward to defeating Donald Trump or whoever else emerges from the Republican primary on the ballot box in November 2024,” said Brooke Goren, the campaign’s deputy communications director.

Wisconsin was among the most competitive states in Biden’s 2020 election win over Trump Trump and will likely be key to his reelection hopes in 2024. Trump is the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, and the party is hosting its national convention in Milwaukee next year.

In Wisconsin and beyond, Biden is trying to pep up American voters at a time when polls show people are largely dour about his handling of the economy. The president is struggling with poor approval ratings on the economy even as the unemployment rate hovers near historic lows and as inflation has plummeted in little over a year from 9.1% to 3.2%.

Biden announced that the Grow Milwaukee Coalition is one of 22 finalists for the Commerce Department’s “Recompete” pilot program. The program is funded by Biden’s CHIPS and Science Act, and is focused on investing $190 million in federal funding in job creation and small business growth in hard-hit U.S. communities.

The Grow Milwaukee Coalition proposal is centered on revitalizing Milwaukee’s 30th Street Industrial Corridor.

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Megerian reported from Washington.

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Biden tackles Trump and touts economic progress in Milwaukee visit