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President Biden traveled to Pennsylvania to tout his domestic agenda

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Biden was in Scranton, Pa., yesterday, his birthplace, promoting a domestic agenda that is struggling in Congress. Here's Sam Dunklau from our member station WITF.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Please, welcome the president of the United States.

SAM DUNKLAU, BYLINE: In a speech filled with reminiscences about his early childhood, Biden harkened back to something his father told him all those years ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Joey, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It's about your dignity. It's about respect. It's about being able to look your kid in the eye and say, honey, it's going to be OK.

DUNKLAU: Jobs like that, the president says, are what Scranton needs most right now since the pandemic has thrashed the local economy. He says if Congress agrees to invest the several trillions of dollars he wants for things like rail construction and clean energy generation, those jobs will come.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: Good union jobs - not $7 an hour or $15 an hour, a prevailing wage.

DUNKLAU: Scranton native Justin Howells just managed to find a good manufacturing job but only after six months of looking. He lost his retail job in the pandemic. Howell says plenty of people he knows haven't been lucky enough to find work here yet.

JUSTIN HOWELLS: I feel we kind of need more stimulus, honestly, to help, like, revitalize the area a little bit. A lot of people are struggling for jobs. And I feel like that needs to be attacked specifically as well.

DUNKLAU: On another side of town, retired restaurant manager Michele Martinez wants the high-paying jobs that are already in the area to stick around. She says her husband works building oil and gas pipelines. The two have been worried that Biden's infrastructure deal, with its focus on clean energy, wouldn't support that kind of work.

MICHELE MARTINEZ: And this one guy is like, what the hell are we going to do? He said, there's, like, 4,000 of us. We're all going to be in the unemployment line.

DUNKLAU: The White House says Biden, quote, "doesn't see it that way." A spokeswoman says plans to help utility companies produce energy using the sun and wind will more than offset any jobs lost in fossil fuel sectors.

For NPR news, I'm Sam Dunklau in Scranton, Pa.

(SOUNDBITE OF FREDDIE JOACHIM'S "RIVER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sam is a Public Affairs Reporting intern for spring 2018, working out the NPR Illinois Statehouse bureau.

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