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DNC chairman talks about Joe Biden’s approach to Michigan, auto industry

For vice president's plan met with suspicion from progressive Democrats

DETROIT – In a wide ranging interview on Thursday, DNC Chairman Tom Perez touted former Vice President Joe Biden’s plan for manufacturing in Michigan, criticized the White House response to the coronavirus pandemic and the president’s personal response to racial tensions across the country.

The plan, dubbed the “Build Back Better” plan, according to the Biden campaign website, urges more investment in infrastructure, green energy and electric vehicles, like the new electric Hummer from General Motors or Ford’s recently announced all electric Mustang. The plan was announced over the weekend weeks after the campaign to re-elect President Donald Trump began its “Great American Comeback” tour which also promised a return of Michigan manufacturing.

“This is a plan that’s going to attract Republicans, Democrats and Independents because what they all have in common is they want a president who will lead us,” Perez said. “They want a president who will keep his promises.”

Related: Biden: Science, not politics, should decide school reopening

The Biden plan has however been met with suspicion from progressive Democrats who are still uneasy about voting for an establishment-wing Biden. Republicans, including the Michigan GOP Chairman Laura Cox, have criticized the plan which uses some parts of the Green New Deal, which was written by some of the Democratic party’s most liberal members including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen Bernie Sanders, who endorsed Biden earlier this year. Perez is betting it won’t matter to Michiganders.

“Joe Biden won every county in Michigan in the Michigan primary. Michiganders know Joe Biden. They know Barack Obama. They know who saved the auto industry,” Perez said, evoking the name of the former president who officially endorsed his former number-two in April.

Biden did win the Michigan primary beating Sanders by 16 points. Likewise, Biden has a 6 percent lead on Trump, according to the latest CNBC/Change Research poll.

CORONAVIRUS

On the coronavirus, Perez praised Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the virus, backing her mask order. Biden has previously called for a nationwide mask mandate and said he would issue an executive order for one should he be elected.

Read more: Here are the 5 exceptions to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 mask rules

When asked what a response to an inherited pandemic should be from a Democratic Administration, Perez was light on specifics but said health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci would be trusted members of the response plan.

“We’d follow the science, first and foremost. We’d listen to the experts,” he said before urging for the use of masks.

“Masks are not a political statement. They are a public health imperative,” Perez said. “This has been an abject failure. It didn’t have to be this bad. Donald Trump didn’t cause the coronavirus, but his failed leadership has led to needless deaths.”

Perez also said there would be efforts to make the $600 unemployment insurance extension to most Michiganders a long-term payment until job numbers could be restored to pre-pandemic levels. Currently the payments run out July 31st and although there are ongoing talks of extending the funds, Senate Republicans and the White House have been reluctant to signal any interest in continuing to send the checks.

Perez objected to the President’s push to end the Affordable Care Act in the court system over the last few months.

“You had a president of the United States who filed a brief in front of the Supreme Court to get rid of healthcare in the middle of a pandemic. That’s nuts. That’s exactly what we don’t need,” he said.

RACE AND POLICING

On the issue of race and police brutality, Perez overlooked recent gaffes made by Biden saying he looks at his track record on race-relations.

Over the course of the campaign Biden has made several comments including racially insensitive remarks to an African-American radio host in which he told black voters “you ain’t black” if they were on the fence about who to vote for in November. Biden later apologized and said he “shouldn’t have been so cavalier.”

Early on in the campaign, Biden mistakenly said “poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids,” to a listening crowd before correcting his statement to mention children of other races. Recently he offered the idea encouraging police to alter tactics to shoot suspects in the leg instead of normal training tactics.

Perez however pointed to Biden’s record during his nearly half-century in the Senate, particularly highlighting recent work done during the Obama years on the intersection of race and policing. Biden’s Senate record on race was a point of contention during the primary debates, including his votes on segregated busing and his work with racist southern Senators which came to a head when brought up by Sen. Kamala Harris (CA), who is now among those being considered to be Biden’s running mate. Despite those campaign pitfalls, Biden maintains strong support from black voters. The DNC Chairman stood by Biden’s record and recently released a plan on community policing.

“Joe Biden believes that community policing, when you build those relationships of trust, you can reduce crime, restore respect for law enforcement and create vibrant communities. Donald Trump believes you just throw gas on the fire.”

In response to Perez’s statements about the President, the Trump campaign fired back.

“While Joe Biden hides in his basement, President Trump has led an unprecedented response to protect Michiganders and put America First. Michiganders know that President Trump’s bold leadership created the strongest economy ever, and he is the only one able to lead the Great American Comeback. Meanwhile, Sleepy Joe Biden spent 50 years in government shipping Michigan jobs overseas and selling out American workers,” Michigan campaign spokesperson Christ Gustafson said.

More: Political headlines from around the country

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