Mar 29, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Granholm pitches Biden's big plans in Michigan homecoming

Granholm on a factory floor

Jennifer Granholm tours a Heinz-Kraft factory in Holland, Mich. Photo: Hans Nichols, Axios

Culvert Township, Mich. — Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm barnstormed across the Midwest this week, selling President Biden's legislative record on factory floors and union halls as Democrats urgently courted a critical swing state.

Why it matters: The White House knows it has some distance to travel to convince November voters that Biden's infrastructure, chips and green energy bills will translate into smoother roads, busier factories and better-paying jobs.

  • Biden's team also knows that former President Trump — who'll be in Wisconsin next week — sees a chance to cut into Biden's union support by savaging the administration's new regulations to promote EVs, which many autoworkers see as a threat to their jobs.

Enter Granholm, a former two-term Michigan governor, bearing job announcements and big checks.

  • "I don't think people have really appreciated the fact that federal policy actually works," Granholm told Axios in an interview here, where she announced a $1.52 billion loan guarantee to help restart a shuttered nuclear power plant.
  • If approved by federal regulators, the plant would be the first recommissioned nuclear reactor in U.S. history — and provide 1,000 union construction jobs.
  • "All of this activity ... is not just coincidence," Granholm said. "We have a president who gets the importance of bringing jobs back and investing in America."

Between the lines: Granholm's four-day swing through Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin was part of Biden's post-State of the Union push to tout his official agenda.

  • On the ground, the events felt more like campaign rallies.
  • The audiences were sympathetic. The federal funds behind the projects Granholm touted — ranging from $170 million to $1.52 billion — were met with applause.

Zoom out: Biden and his top officials have been frustrated that voters aren't giving him credit for a healthy economy that has defied expectations and added close to 15 million jobs.

  • His team hopes voters will start believing their financial prospects are improving when the effects of his three signature legislative programs start coursing throughout the economy.
  • Yesterday's jump in consumer sentiment might suggest it's beginning to work.

Zoom in: Biden does some of the billion-dollar reveals himself, like he did last week for an $8.5 billion announcement to help build a semiconductor factory in Arizona.

What we're watching: At a United Auto Worker union hall in Lansing on Tuesday, Granholm announced a federal pilot program to train workers for battery manufacturing roles.

  • She was joined by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Labor Secretary Julie Su, who reminded the mostly white, working-class crowd that "good jobs don't just happen by accident."
  • Next was a panel discussion on green energy jobs with women community leaders at a brewery in Grand Rapids.
  • Then she was off to Holland, where she highlighted a $1.7 billion expansion of an EV factory
  • She finished with a stop at a Heinz-Kraft facility, which received $13 million to help lower the plant's industrial emissions.

The other side: Trump's pitch to autoworkers and union households is that Biden's green energy agenda — specifically the transition to electric vehicles — will create "a bloodbath" for the auto industry.

  • Trump's team notes that consumers aren't flocking to EVs the way some auto companies — and many Democrats — had hoped.
  • The American Petroleum Institute is up with a seven-figure ad buy in swing states including Michigan, warning about Biden's new tailpipe emission standards: "Don't let the government be a backseat driver," the narrator says.
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