Biden: McCain helped cripple labor movement

September 20, 2008 3:49:58 PM PDT
Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden said Saturday that Republican John McCain has helped President Bush destroy regulatory safeguards for the middle class in general and the labor movement in particular.Biden, a Delaware senator, told hundreds of cheering coal mining families at a United Mine Workers picnic that McCain went along with Bush in putting anti-labor, corporate interests in charge of the U.S. Labor Department and the National Labor Relations Board.

"Do any of you doubt that this administration has anything else in mind than doing in the labor movement?" Biden said.

Biden's visit was the third since June by him or Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to the rural, blue-collar southwestern tip of Virginia, a battleground state that hasn't backed a Democrat for president in 44 years.

Biden sought to link McCain and Bush in blame for high fuel costs, declining health benefits for workers and veterans, and a troubled stock market.

"This president has us engaged in three wars - one of necessity in Afghanistan and one of choice in Iraq. But he also has been at war on labor's house since the day he was elected. It is an outright war on labor's house," Biden said.

He said veterans have faced substandard medical care and educational benefits under the administration, and that when Sen.

Jim Webb, D-Va., sought to improve them by introducing a new GI Bill, McCain said the bill was too generous.

McCain said he opposed the bill because it might encourage people to leave the military while the country is fighting two wars. He joined Republican colleagues in proposing a bill to tie increased education benefits to length of service, but Senate Democrats blocked it from coming to a vote.

Biden also read comments attributed to McCain in a trade publication in which he called for reducing regulation for health insurance markets the way the banking industry was deregulated in the past 10 years. Obama referenced the same comments during his appearance in Florida.

That approach, Biden said, would expose health coverage for workers to the disastrous results that subprime mortgages wrought on the lending industry.

"He wants to do for health care what he did for banks," Biden said, echoing Obama.

Biden brought a strong populist, economic message to an Appalachian region that takes in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia where Hillary Rodham Clinton dominated Obama in the primaries. Obama crushed Clinton in Virginia's primary, but in the rugged "Fightin' 9th" Congressional District in the state's southwestern tip, she beat him by a 2-to-1 ratio.

The district is a curious blend of strongly pro-gun, religious conservatives and pro-labor, progressives in an otherwise strongly anti-union state.

The promise of better economic times is how Democrats win the district, said Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., who has won 13 consecutive terms and is unopposed for re-election. President Clinton won it in 1996 and Mark Warner won it with an aggressive rural appeal in his 2001 gubernatorial race.

"You've got to show up and talk about coal, talk about infrastructure investment and talk about economic empowerment," Boucher said.

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