Biden stumps for Pa.'s Fetterman, says 'world is looking'

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President Joe Biden speaks with Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, after stepping off Air Force One, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, at the 171st Air Refueling Wing at Pittsburgh International Airport in Coraopolis, Pa. Biden is visiting Pittsburgh to promote his infrastructure agenda. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said Thursday that the “rest of the world is looking” to see who holds control of Congress after the upcoming midterm elections, warning that Republican victories would jeopardize the nation's standing abroad as tried to deliver a boost to Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman’s campaign for the Senate.

Speaking at a fundraiser in Philadelphia, Biden sounded the alarm about what he viewed as the urgency of the moment, saying Republicans are trying to roll back access to abortion and raise the price of prescription drugs. He seized on comments by some GOP lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, casting doubt on the U.S. commitment to help Ukraine fend off Russia's invasion of its territory.

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“They said that if they win they’re not likely to fund, to continue to fund Ukraine," Biden said. “These guys don’t get it. It’s a lot bigger than Ukraine. It’s Eastern Europe. It’s NATO. It’s really serious, serious, consequential outcomes.”

He added: “The rest of the world is looking at this election as well. Both the good guys and the bad guys out there — to see what’s going to happen. We’ve got to win. John’s got to win.”

Biden's comments came at the conclusion of a daylong visit to the state, where a Democratic victory would strongly improve the party's chances of holding onto the Senate. Fetterman is facing Dr. Mehmet Oz, a Republican, for an open seat being vacated by Sen. Pat Toomey, also a Republican.

Biden called Oz “a perfect example” of what he has termed “MAGA Republicans,” referencing former President Donald Trumps “Make America Great Again” slogan. Trump endorsed Oz's candidacy, delivering him a critical boost in the GOP primary earlier this year.

Fetterman, who is recovering from a stroke he suffered just days before the Democratic primary, said he's doing much better, but acknowledged some lingering effects. "Sometimes I’ll miss a word or I’ll mush two words together some time.”

He criticized his rival, saying, “Dr. Oz never lets me forget that I had a stroke.” He added: “In January, I’ll be feeling much better. But Dr. Oz will still be a fraud.”

Earlier Thursday, Biden showcased his administration’s efforts to revitalize the nation’s roadways, touring repair work underway at Fern Hollow Bridge. It became a symbol of the nation’s aging infrastructure after it collapsed into a ravine just hours before Biden visited Pittsburgh last January.

Administration officials say the repair job, expected to be finished by December, was accelerated by passage of a bipartisan infrastructure law that Biden signed late last year. Biden had diverted from his planned itinerary last January to visit the site of the just-collapsed bridge.

On Thursday, he returned to the bridge to turn it into a symbol of success for the White House and Democrats, who count the bipartisan law as one of several achievements during the first two years of Biden's presidency.

“When you see these projects in your neighborhoods and cranes going up, shovels in the ground, I want you to feel the way I feel: pride," Biden said, speaking next to a tall, yellow crane at the edge of the new span of Fern Hollow. "Pride in what we can do when we work together.”

Fetterman was on hand when Biden visited the Pittsburgh bridge. Biden thanked Fetterman — currently the state's lieutenant governor — for his candidacy and told his wife, Gisele, “You're going to be a great, great lady in the Senate."

“This law's about more than rebuilding our infrastructure, it's about rebuilding the middle class — something John knows a lot about and talks a lot about,” Biden said during his remarks.

While traveling the country Biden repeatedly emphasizes the infrastructure legislation’s impact on roadways, airplane terminals and seaports. Out of roughly $1 trillion in spending, about $40 billion is dedicated to bridges.

The Biden administration has sought to increase the pace of building infrastructure projects, hosting a summit last week at the White House to help state and local government officials streamline their processes.

The push to speed up the permitting, design and construction process has come as high inflation has pushed up costs and caused delays. The Commerce Department has an initiative to coordinate the installation of water pipes and broadband and power lines to avoid tearing up roads multiple times. The Transportation Department launched an internal center to advise on best practices for construction.

The Fettermans later accompanied Biden to a Primanti Bros. sandwich shop in nearby Moon Township, where the president paid for several bags of takeout food and, in a brief exchange with reporters, expressed confidence that Democrats would retain control of the Senate.

“It ain’t over until it’s over,” Biden said of his party's prospects in the Senate.

Biden gave the Fettermans a ride on Air Force One to Philadelphia, where he was the keynote speaker at the fundraiser to help replenish coffers that have been drained in one of the year's most expensive races.

Introducing Biden, Fetterman highlighted his commitment to protecting abortion rights, saying, “I would always be the vote that you can count on."

“Please send Dr. Oz back to New Jersey," he added, mocking the former television personality's longtime residence in the neighboring state. "And send me to D.C. to be that 51st vote.”

Republicans seized on the inflation issue Thursday. Rep. Dan Meuser, R-Pa., said the cost of fixing a bridge is 30% to 40% higher now than it was two years ago — so the bill’s excess infrastructure funding didn’t do any good.

“Every Pennsylvanian that I know, Republicans and Democrats, are asking the same question: If a trillion-plus was passed for infrastructure and transportation projects, roads and bridges, where is it? We don’t really see it,” Meuser said on a press call arranged by the Republican National Committee. “Our roads are in bad shape.”

Earlier Thursday, Biden, before boarding his helicopter on the White House South Lawn, challenged a reporter who suggested that few Democratic candidates have done events with him ahead of the midterm elections.

“That’s not true,” Biden responded. “There have been 15. Count, kid, count.” He later told reporters in Moon Township that he has received several requests from Democratic candidates to campaign but he did not yet have details.

Associated Press writers Seung Min Kim and Zeke Miller in Washington and Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pa., contributed to this report.

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