By: - June 18, 2020 4:41 pm

Vice President Mike Pence addresses his remarks Friday, June 12, 2020, at Oberg Industries in Sarver, Pa. | Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen via Flickr Public Domain

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday visited Michigan to tour manufacturing plants in Macomb County, part of a swing through the newly reopened state.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia joined Pence in Sterling Heights. Both officials said the Trump administration can expand Michigan’s economy — and by extension, the national economy — to the levels they reached prior to the severe downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eugene Scalia attends his confirmation hearing to become the next U.S. Labor Secretary in Washington, DC | Astrid Riecken/Getty Images

After an introduction by Scalia, Pence told a socially distanced crowd at Sterling Heights company Casadei Steel that it was “great to be back in the Wolverine state.”

“We’ve all passed through very challenging times over the last several months, but I’m proud to report to you, after all that we’ve been through — standing here because of the sacrifices the American people have made, because of the incredible dedication of our health care workers, because of the way that American businesses stepped up — every state in this country is now opened up again, and three-quarters of America’s small businesses are going back to work,” Pence said. 

Pence’s visit is part of the administration’s “Great American Comeback Tour,” touting the “recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic, although cases continue to rise in more than a dozen states.

He is currently in charge of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. 

Pence thanked Michigan manufacturing workers and plants for their contributions to the aerospace and defense industry. He also said workers did their part to combat COVID-19 and in doing so, flattened the curve.

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“It was because of all of you that we are where we are today,” Pence said. “Every single day, we’re one day closer to putting the coronavirus in the past.”

As of Thursday, the state reports that 60,618 Michiganders have tested positive for COVID-19 and 5,818 have died. In the United States, there are more than 2.1 million confirmed cases and 118,057 deaths. 

“I’m also told that when a local General Motors plant came to Casadei and asked for help in building life-saving ventilators, this company stepped up and helped to create a new facility to help manufacture life-saving parts,” Pence said.

He told workers they had met the moment with “ingenuity and compassion and resolve.”

Pence also took a detour from remarking on economic reopening and the labor force to say defunding the police — a proposal from some in the anti-police brutality movement that has picked up steam in the wake of police-caused killings of George Floyd and other Black Americans — will not happen. 

Poll: 57% say police brutality against Blacks is a ‘very serious problem’

“Every one of us knows men and women in law enforcement really are the best of us,” he said. “They put on that uniform every day and they go and risk their lives to protect and serve our families.”

Pence said Trump’s Tuesday executive order on police reform will help police “improve” law enforcement. That order would establish a database to track police officers with excessive use-of-force complaints, financially incentivize departments to adopt different practices and tell the Justice Department to push police departments to be certified with use-of-force policies that prohibit chokeholds except in circumstances where deadly force is allowed by law. 

Critics, including Democrats in Congress, said the order falls short in combating racial injustice and police brutality. The administration also continues to face heavy criticism for not acknowledging systemic racism and for only recently taking action toward police reform. 

Trump also has been criticized for painting protestors as violent and law enforcement as heroic, despite the fact that the majority of anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests happening across the nation in the last several weeks remained largely peaceful. 

Meeting with John James

Earlier Thursday, Pence and Scalia stopped at Chardam Gear Co., a manufacturer that makes parts to be used in military and commercial aircraft. 

Prior to that, Pence was greeted at Selfridge Air National Guard Base by John James, a Republican businessman who’s challenging U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.). They stopped for lunch at Engine House, a bar and grill in the Detroit suburb of Mt. Clemens, where face masks and social distancing appeared to be scarce. 

“Thank you Mr. Vice President for meeting with me and discussing my prosperity agenda and the President’s recent public safety order,” James wrote in a tweet. “I’m looking forward to making Michigan safer and more prosperous the next six years together.”

Democrats blasted Pence’s visit, with Sterling Heights City Council Member Michael Radtke lamenting that it was merely a “photo op.”

“My constituents in Sterling Heights are hurting right now. They’re hurting from an economy that has collapsed because of COVID-19, they’re worried about their families because they don’t have the testing they need and they’re worried about our budget,” he said.

The state and many local governments are facing huge budget holes, something Radtke noted. 

“Trump and congressional Republicans are helping big businesses to the tune of billions of dollars, but can’t spare any money to help our cities while my people and my city are hurting,” he said. “Cities like mine should not be the ones bearing the cost of protecting our citizens. That’s a failure of leadership I can put right on Vice President Pence and President Trump.”

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C.J. Moore
C.J. Moore

C.J. Moore covers the environment and the Capitol. She previously worked at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland as a public affairs staff science writer. She also previously covered crop sustainability and coal pollution issues for Great Lakes Echo. In addition, she served as editor in chief at The State News and covered its academics and research beat. She is a journalism graduate student at Michigan State University.