Administration

Biden shows support for unions, touts legislative victories at Wisconsin labor event

Associated Press/Susan Walsh
President Joe Biden speaks during an event at Henry Maier Festival Park in Milwaukee, Monday, Sept. 5, 2022. Biden is in Wisconsin this Labor Day to kick off a nine-week sprint to the crucial midterm elections.

President Biden expressed his support for labor unions and boasted about Democratic legislative victories during a Wisconsin labor event just two months ahead of the November midterms. 

Speaking at Milwaukee Laborfest, the president said Labor Day is “a special day to me as well because the fact of the matter here is I wouldn’t be here without unions! Unions. Electricians, iron workers … teamsters, laborers, bricklayers, transit workers, plumbers and pipefitters, steel workers.”

He also said union support helped propel him to the Senate years ago, saying that “union labor endorsed me and fought for me.”

Biden also continued his attacks against “MAGA Republicans,” referring to former President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.

Borrowing language from his Thursday speech in Philadelphia, Biden said, “Not every Republican is a MAGA Republican. Not every Republican embraces that extreme ideology. I know because I’ve been able to work with mainstream Republicans my whole career. But the extreme MAGA Republicans in Congress have chosen to go backwards, full of anger, violence, hate and division.”

Biden on Thursday delivered remarks from Independence Hall in which he portrayed Republicans aligned with Trump as a threat to democracy and many rights.

Those who attended the Monday labor event included Gov. Tony Evers (D), Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), and President of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations Liz Shuler. 

Biden also used the event in a swing state with a crucial Senate race to tout a number of his administration’s legislative victories, including a coronavirus relief package, the bill he signed last month to fuel investments in domestic semiconductor manufacturing and scientific research, and aspects of the sweeping health, tax and climate reconciliation package.

Wisconsin will hold two closely watched contests in November for governor and Senate. Democrats are hopeful they can unseat Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.), who is considered one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans fighting for another term. 

A Fox News poll released last month found 49 percent of Wisconsin voters backing Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D), while 45 percent supported Johnson. The polling falls within the margin of error, effectively tying the two. 

“For decades, Big Pharma tried to block giving lower drug prices for those on Medicare or anywhere else. For decades, Big Pharma won year in year out because they own chunks of the Congress, because they had the help, like your senior senator, Ron Johnson, who said,” Biden said to boos after saying Johnson’s name.

“I want to say what he said,” Biden continued. “He said he opposed lowering drug costs because we result in punishing the pharmaceutical industry. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I mean, come on, man.”

Biden was referring to an interview Johnson did with Fox News host Brian Kilmeade in August. Kilmeade asked Johnson about his thoughts on Medicare being allowed to bid on pharmaceutical prices, with the senator alleging the pharmaceutical industry and innovation would be negatively affected. The Democratic reconciliation package will allow some drug prices to be negotiated by Medicare. 

“When you start punishing the pharmaceutical industry, you’re going to have less innovation, you’re going to have fewer lifesaving drugs. That’s not a good thing,” Johnson commented at one point. 

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