President Biden traveled to a truck parts factory in Hagerstown Friday to mark National Manufacturing Day, using the occasion to tout his record on jobs and the economy, bash Republicans, and prop up the state’s only vulnerable Democratic congressman.
Biden’s speech lacked the fire of his last appearance in Maryland, a full-on political rally in Rockville six weeks ago. But after touring the Volvo USA Group plant in Hagerstown, where engines, transmissions and axels are built for Mack trucks, the president attempted to score political points on the economy and warned that a Republican takeover of Congress could stall the progress the nation has made under his administration and be a disaster for the financial security of everyday Americans. He asserted that inflation would get worse under the GOP, “hitting every kitchen table cost,” and that Republicans will once again seek to adopt “trickle-down” economic policies.
“When it comes to the next Congress, this isn’t a referendum,” Biden said. “It’s a choice. It’s a choice between two drastically different views of the economy.”
The president spoke about a broad range of measures that have become law during his presidency, to boost infrastructure projects, jump-start the clean energy economy, reduce prescription drug prices, and increase government spending for mental health programs, among others. He was disdainful of Republicans who label his initiatives “socialism” but then seek funding for their states and districts through the programs he’s created.
But as much as anything, Biden’s appearance was a rally for a resurgent U.S. manufacturing economy — which, he said, has been aided considerably by organized labor.
Biden said that of the 10 million jobs that have been created since he took office in January 2021, 638,000 have been in the manufacturing sector.
“This is National Manufacturing Day,” he said. “It’s starting to mean something. Where is written that America can’t be the leader in manufacturing again?”
According to a White House pool report, as Biden toured the factory, which employs 1,700 people — 1,300 of whom belong to two different United Autoworkers union locals — workers explained how various parts that are manufactured at the plant operate. Biden told them that the assembly line was “amazing” and represents the future of manufacturing.
Biden also noted the large solar array outside the plant, which, according to Volvo officials, generates about 13% of the power the factory needs to operate.
Before he spoke, climbing a riser to the strains of “Hail to the Chief,” Biden received an effusive introduction from Sam Leedy, a material handler who has worked at the plant for two dozen years. Leedy said his career with Volvo has given his family economic security and a ticket to the middle class, despite the changes and challenges the manufacturing sector has faced over the years.
“I’m grateful for Volvo USA and my union for good paying jobs,” he said.
Leedy added that he and his co-workers take pride in the work they do.
“I love seeing all those Macks when I go down the highway,” he said. “I know their power trains are built here in Hagerstown and I know it’s high quality.”
And of Biden, Leedy said, “It makes a difference to have a president who’s pro-union and pro-jobs.”
The politics of the 6th District
As much as anything, Biden’s appearance in Hagerstown seemed gift-wrapped for U.S. Rep. David Trone (D), who faces a tough political climate as he seeks a third term. Trone is one of the wealthiest members of Congress and a generous donor to Democratic candidates and causes; earlier this year, Biden headlined a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee at Trone’s home.
Trone rode with Biden to Hagerstown on Air Force One (a trip that took about 25 minutes from Joint Base Andrews in Prince George’s County), and introduced Biden to Hagerstown Mayor Emily Keller and other local dignitaries when the plane landed in Hagerstown.
Biden said Trone is “always, always working for the working people of his district,” and said that because of the congressman’s work, Interstate 81 in Western Maryland would be widened and improved.
Trone credited Biden’s infrastructure initiative for providing funding that will enable the state to widen the interstate, and he said that many of the administration’s accomplishments won’t be felt until years from now.
“We don’t see it yet,” Trone said. “We don’t see the new roads and hospitals, the lower health care costs. But it’s all coming.”
In a tossup district, Trone preached bipartisanship, which he called “so important.” And he said Biden, despite his partisan broadsides, believes in it, too.
“He’s demonstrated competence, civility and compassion,” Trone said. “President Biden is putting people over politics.”
Keller, a Democrat though the mayor is chosen in a nonpartisan election, also heaped praise on Trone.
“He’s no secret here, because he’s here all the time,” she said.
According to Trone’s official schedule, the congressman is scheduled to return to Hagerstown on Monday to discuss criminal justice reform with former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan — a Republican — and will be back Wednesday to tour two mental health facilities.
Shortly before Biden’s appearance in Hagerstown, Trone’s challenger, Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington), sought to score some political points of his own.
“Will the President and @davidjtrone speak (or, apologize) to our voters today about plans to double the IRS with 87k new agents?” he wrote on Twitter. “Or the new 10-year quota for the IRS to collect $58 Trillion from hard working American families & businesses?”
A day earlier, on Twitter, Parrott wrote: “President Biden is coming to the 6th district of MD because Democrats think @davidjtrone might lose this election. They’re right to be concerned, the people of MD-6 are tired of paying more for everything because of Dems trillion dollar spending sprees.”
Even though Trone may have been the political focal point of Biden’s appearance, thanks to Hagerstown’s proximity in the Western Maryland panhandle and the likelihood that Volvo’s workforce lives in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Virginia in addition to Maryland, it’s a safe bet that Biden’s political message was amplified beyond the 6th District.