‘Buy American’: In the Lehigh Valley, Biden touts manufacturing, as Senate gets infrastructure deal

“I’m working with Democrats and Republicans to get this done, because while there’s a lot we don’t agree on, I believe we should be able to work together on the few things we do agree on,” Biden said.

By: - July 28, 2021 5:27 pm

President Joe Biden speaks at a Mack Trucks assembly plant in Lower Macungie Twp., Pa., on Wednesday, 7/28/21 (Screen Capture)

LOWER MACUNGIE, TWP., PA — President Joe Biden visited a Mack Truck assembly plant in suburban Allentown on Wednesday to tout his plan to bolster American manufacturing and to provide well-paying jobs for American workers.

“I can sum it up in two words: Buy American,” Biden said to the crowd of 130 Mack Truck workers, union leaders and local politicians inside the Mack Trucks facility for his speech.

During his 30-minute long appearance, Biden learned that Republicans in the U.S. Senate had reached an agreement with Democratas on a $1 trillion infrastructure package, the Morning Call of Allentown reported. A test vote on the bill was scheduled for Wednesday night.

“I’m working with Democrats and Republicans to get this done, because while there’s a lot we don’t agree on, I believe we should be able to work together on the few things we do agree on,” Biden said.

Biden briefly toured the plant with Mack employees and union members, then took the stage and touched on economic recovery, job creation and the highlights of the administration’s Build Back Better pandemic recovery campaign.

Mack Trucks is one of the country’s largest truck manufacturers and one of the largest employers in the Lehigh Valley region. The plant provides the federal truck fleet with over 1,500 trucks for military and civilian agencies.

Biden’s choice to visit the region is not unexpected. Visiting the Lehigh Valley as sitting president is somewhat of a tradition — the last five sitting presidents dating back to George H.W. Bush have paid the region a visit. The area is a political battleground consisting of a mixture of urban, democratic-leaning hubs and rural, red regions.

Biden’s choice of venue also allowed him to tout several of his manufacturing-related initiatives, including his $52 billion proposed investment to boost semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S. 

Mack Trucks has faced major supply chain problems stemming from semiconductor chip shortages made abroad. 

Manufacturing interruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic have caused worldwide shortages of semiconductor chips used to make cars and trucks. Because of the shortage, Mack ran only one shift at the plant for two weeks in April and has laid off workers recently, the Morning Call reported.

Biden touched on the supply chain shortages Mack faces to promote his proposals to bolster U.S. manufacturing. He mentioned a recent bipartisan bill that would incentivize South Korea and Taiwan to open up plants in the U.S. and hire American employees to make crucial semiconductor chips.

The president also talked up his new Buy America Rule, which the White House announced just hours before he landed. The rule would increase the percentage of U.S.-made parts in products the federal government buys from 55% to 75% by 2029, and help support domestic production of items the U.S. needs for national and economic security, according to a news release. 

While the majority of his speech focused on his new manufacturing industry initiatives, the president projected optimism about America’s economy in the long-term. He discussed America’s economic growth during his presidency that he attributes to the American Rescue Plan, citing the hundreds of thousands of jobs created each month and shrinking unemployment rates across the country. 

“We brought this economy back from the brink, put checks in people’s pockets, shots in people’s arms, [gave] tax cuts for people with children,” Biden said.

In Pennsylvania, the American Rescue Plan has given the commonwealth more than $7.2 billion in fiscal relief, $6.2 billion in local fiscal relief and $5.1 billion for K-12 public schools. In addition, 86 percent of all Pennsylvania adults received stimulus check payments of up to $1,400.


Not everyone shared Biden’s rosy vision for the nation’s economic future.

In a statement, Jason Gottesman, a spokesman for state House Republicans, criticized Biden for praising the commonwealth’s economic recovery as Pennsylvania faces a labor shortage and warning signs of economic inflation.

“President Biden’s appearance in Pennsylvania to pitch the manufacturing component of his behemoth public works proposal shows he has no clue about what Pennsylvanians have been through over the last 17 months, especially those in the manufacturing sector,” Gottesman said. 

U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th District, who greeted Biden on tarmac at Lehigh Valley International Airport, said in a statement that “there’s no better place than the Greater Lehigh Valley to discuss the importance of our manufacturers and supporting the good-paying, union jobs that keep our community going.” 

In a statement, Gov. Tom Wolf  said Biden’s plan “reflects my priorities to build and strengthen our economic with a diverse workforce, will support manufacturers of all sizes, including small and historically disadvantaged businesses; repair and strengthen domestic supply chains; and close loopholes to ensure that more products bought with taxpayer dollars are truly American made.”

Supporters of former President Donald Trump gather outside of the entrance to Mack Trucks in Macungie, awaiting President Joe Biden’s arrival at the truck manufacturing plant (Capital-Star photo by Lindsay Weber)

While the event on Mack Truck’s grounds was closed to the public, a crowd of hundreds showed up to welcome Biden — some more warmly than others — across the street from the plant’s entrance.

The road leading to Mack Truck’s entrance was clogged on either side by a mix of former President Donald Trump’s and Biden’s supporters. — The groups stood on opposite sides of the busy intersection and were a roaring mixture of boos and cheers as Biden’s motorcade flew by at around 12:30 p.m. 

Madeline MacMechan came from nearby Breinigsville to watch Biden’s brigade. She arrived to show support for the sitting president, but also because she worries that “We’re going backwards, not forwards.” She worries about the lack of economic opportunities for her future grandchildren and the looming threat of climate change. 

On the other hand, Mary Fassel and her granddaughter Madison Hauze, both from Pennsylvania, said they came because they believe Biden is not the legitimately elected president.  

“We need to get the real president [in office],” Fassel said.

Despite Trump’s claims, no evidence exists to prove that Biden’s victory in the presidential election was a result of fraud. 

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Lindsay Weber
Lindsay Weber

Lindsay Weber is an intern with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondent Association and a 2021 graduate of Macalester College. Find her on twitter at @Lindsay_Weber_.