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Vice President Harris to visit Milwaukee labor training center to discuss lead pipe replacement

Vice Presidential Sen. Kamala Harris participates in a roundtable event with Black business owners on Sep. 7, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Scott Olson
Getty Images
Vice President Kamala Harris in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2020.

Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled to visit Milwaukee Monday to talk about union workers soon taking on the task of replacing lead drinking water pipes.

The White House said Harris would speak at the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership/BIG STEP building on the city's near west side.

The recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will bring millions of federal dollars to Milwaukee. The Biden administration recently announced a priority on replacing lead pipes and removing lead paint as ways to reduce the health threat of lead in homes.

Lilly Goren chairs the Department of History, Political Science and Religious Studies at Carroll University in Waukesha. Goren says promoting infrastructure spending is not a hot-button issue but highlights hope and progress.

"You know, this is accomplished, and now we're going to have shovel-ready projects and moving all this stuff forward," she says.

Goren says it's possible Harris will also be trying to win over some swing voters in the construction industry. "[Those] who maybe vote Republican, maybe vote Democrat. This may be an opportunity to say, 'Hey, you're going to be working on a federal government contract for the X number of days, months, years, and what about that?'" she says.

Some of the vice president's emphasis is likely to be on future workers, as the Regional Training Partnership specializes in hands-on, group-size preemployment training certificate programs, while BIG STEP focuses on individualized tutoring in academic skills for apprenticeship exams.

UW-Milwaukee political science professor Paru Shah says Harris' visit might also signal a continued effort to pass the administration's Build Back Better spending plan, which is currently stalled in Congress.

"Maybe not in the way the Biden administration has packaged them, but definitely things that those of us in Wisconsin realize we need moving forward for our state to be healthy," Shah says.

Harris is coming to Milwaukee as national polls show approval ratings for President Joe Biden are in the low 40s. Shah says that may be less of a concern for Biden right now but potentially a big deal for other Democrats this fall.

"Every opportunity they have to build momentum around these issues, I think they're going to take between now and November," Shah says.

Wisconsin Democrats hope to reelect Tony Evers as governor and capture the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Ron Johnson.

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