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Biden, in Michigan, sharpens 2024 pitch with focus on 2021-2022

Fresh from a midterm success, the president begins crafting a message that touts his first-term record

President Biden speaks at the SK Siltron CSS facility in Bay City, Mich., on Nov. 29. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

BAY CITY, Mich. — President Biden celebrated the achievements of his first two years in office here Tuesday, pledging that Americans would feel their impact in a greater way over the rest of his term — a period likely to be marked more by investigations than legislation as Republicans take control of the House.

During his first policy-focused domestic trip since Democrats outperformed expectations in the midterm elections three weeks ago, Biden spent more time discussing the implementation of previously passed bills than what legislation he expects to pass in the future.

“What’s most exciting about it is that people are starting to feel a sense of optimism and the impact of these legislative achievements in their own lives,” he said during an event at a factory. “It’s going to accelerate in the months ahead. And so many things you’re going to find out what we’ve already done that we haven’t been able to actually implement yet.”

It was a slightly modified version of an approach he took before the midterms, when advisers said Biden’s most effective strategy involved traveling around the country and contrasting his policies with those of his Republican detractors. The trip offered a preview of the kind of politicking Biden is likely to embrace in the next two years, when there is little expectation that the kind of sweeping legislation Democrats passed in 2021 and 2022 will be possible. Republicans, poised to take control of the House in January, have already promised to investigate the Biden administration and thwart the president’s agenda.

Biden, who has begun planning for a potential 2024 presidential run, reiterated many of the same lines he used on the campaign trail in 2020 and during the 2022 midterms, while promising that people would better understand his record soon.

“Together, with the help of your elected leaders here today, we had an extraordinary two years of progress,” he said. “We passed the American Rescue plan — now, everybody knows it, but we did so much that no one knows the effect of it yet. It’s just coming into play.”

Biden appeared at an SK Siltron CSS facility that makes semiconductor wafers used in electric vehicles. Last year, the company announced a $300 million expansion in Michigan operations, a move that is expected to quadruple production capacity and create as many as 150 jobs, according to the White House.

Biden has credited the Chips and Science Act, a bipartisan bill that he signed this year to boost the domestic semiconductor industry, with spurring investment in Michigan and elsewhere. The bill was designed to help the United States better compete against China and other global rivals, and Biden’s aides hope it will pay political dividends as new plants and other investments are announced.

The president has said he plans to change little about the way he operates, despite a major change in the political landscape in Washington, where Republican control of the House is likely to bring much of his legislative agenda to a halt.

Instead of focusing on passing major pieces of legislation on hot-button issues such as abortion access, voting rights and gun control, Biden plans to take his message on the road and work to make sure voters see the impact of previously passed laws as they begin to be implemented.

“Nothing,” Biden replied this month, when asked what he would do differently in the next two years to address voters’ frustrations with the direction of the country. “Because they’re just finding out what we’re doing. The more they know about what we’re doing, the more support there is.”

Biden’s speech in Michigan largely made good on that pledge, as the atmosphere and events largely mirrored those he held before the election in factories in places such as Hagerstown, Md., Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and New Albany, Ohio. Large banners that read “Building a Better America” hung behind the presidential podium, and there were several union members in the audience, including one who introduced Biden and praised his leadership.

In his previous stops, Biden touted a bipartisan effort to infuse $52 billion of taxpayer money to incentivize the reshoring of manufacturing deemed vital to U.S. economic and national security. At many of the events, he also contrasted his economic agenda with that of Republicans, highlighting that the GOP voted unanimously against legislation he championed on issues including combating climate change and reducing the price of prescription drugs.

Still, Biden plans to spend much of the next two years highlighting the impact of legislation passed both along party lines and with bipartisan support, aides said. Americans can expect to see the president celebrating new bridges and other infrastructure made possible by the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law he signed last year, as well as initiatives to reduce prescription drug costs and cap the price of insulin for seniors — parts of the Inflation Reduction Act that begin to come into effect next year.

Republicans, for their part, have said some of their top priorities include rolling back parts of the Inflation Reduction Act, which passed with only Democratic votes this year.

Biden has continued to slam Republicans for their efforts to combat his agenda. Aides say the president sees a silver lining in the fact that Republicans will soon control the House, as the change in power will make it easier for him to contrast his agenda with the policies backed by his opponents.

Even as Biden pledges to stick to his previous strategy, Republicans have promised that things would change significantly for his administration in a matter of weeks.

“I think the administration got an indication that it’s going to be different,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters outside the White House after his meeting with Biden and congressional leaders Tuesday.

Republicans have said their ascension will allow them to highlight issues Democrats have ignored or have not addressed over the past two years of unified government control. McCarthy highlighted immigration, inflation and government spending among areas where House Republicans planned to use their new majority to pressure the administration.

“I invited the president to go to the border with me,” McCarthy said Tuesday, highlighting the fentanyl crisis and reiterating his call for Biden’s Homeland Security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, to resign. “Every city today is now a border city.”

In Michigan, Biden spent little time talking about Republicans, instead touting his own record and pledging to keep working to reduce inflation, a stubborn problem that has vexed Americans for more than a year, despite the president’s initial claims that it would be transitory. Economists have predicted that economic indicators suggest a recession is on the horizon. Biden has acknowledged that Americans feel anxious about the economy but claimed that the steady job growth of the past year and the strong manufacturing sector make a harsh recession unlikely.

“It’s going to take time to get inflation back to normal levels, and we could see setbacks along the way,” Biden said Tuesday. “But we’re laser-focused on it.”

Biden appeared with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), whose comfortable reelection this month boosted Democrats’ hopes that they have a strong chance of holding the critical presidential battleground state in 2024.

Aides say they expect Biden to continue to travel the country in the months ahead, including to presidential swing states, to tout his economic agenda.

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