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In Ford factory visit, he pitches $4 trillion economic agenda

By Jim Tankersley and Neal E. Boudette

© The New York Times Co.

President Joe Biden traveled to Michigan Tuesday to visit the factory where Ford will produce the first electric version of its signature F-150 pickup truck, seeking to harness the horsepower of an American icon as he continues to make the case for his $4 trillion economic agenda.

Biden’s remarks at the Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center centered on the hundreds of billions of dollars for domestic manufacturing, electric vehicle deployment and research into emerging technologies such as advanced batteries that are included in the first half of his two part economic agenda.

“My name is Joe Biden,” the president said at the start of his remarks, “and I’m a car guy.”

In a state that helped deliver the White House to Biden last year, after going for former President Donald Trump in 2016, the president pitched the idea that a transition to electric vehicles can position the United States to beat out China in the global automotive market while creating high-paying union jobs. He did so flanked by trucks from the best-selling vehicle line in the country.

“The future of the auto industry is electric,” Biden said. “There’s no turning back.”

“The American auto industry is at a crossroads, and the real question is whether we’ll lead or fall behind in the race to the future,” he said. “Or whether we’ll build these vehicles and the batteries that go in them here in the United States or rely on other countries, or whether the jobs to build these vehicles and batteries are good paying union jobs with benefits, jobs that will sustain and grow the middle class.”

Upon arrival in Michigan, Biden huddled for several minutes with Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat who has criticized Biden for siding too heavily with Israel in the ongoing conflict with Palestinians in Gaza. Biden singled her out in his remarks.

“I admire your intellect, I admire your passion and I admire your concern for so many other people,” he said. “From my heart, I pray that your grandma and family are well. I promise you that I’m going to do everything to see that they are, on the West Bank. You’re a fighter, and God thank you for being a fighter.”

Negotiations over a possible bipartisan economic package in Washington — centered on new spending for roads, transit and broadband internet — continued on Capitol Hill even as the president is away.

A group of administration officials, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, were scheduled to meet with Republicans Tuesday, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters.

The Republicans are expected to give the administration their updated counteroffer to Biden’s infrastructure proposal. Their plan will be significantly smaller than Biden’s and would not be paid for by raising taxes on corporations, as Biden has proposed.

The $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan, as Biden calls it, focuses heavily on physical infrastructure and federal spending meant to drive the transition to an economy that relies less on fossil fuels to combat climate change.

The arrival of an electric F-150 is an important milestone in the auto industry’s transition to EVs. So far, only Tesla has sold electric models in high volume, but Ford’s F-series trucks make up the top-selling vehicle line in the U.S. Ford typically sells about 900,000 F-series vehicles a year. “We’re not just electrifying fringe vehicles,” the company’s chairman, William C. Ford Jr., said. “The Mustang and the F-150 are the heart of what Ford is.”

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