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On the same day that President Joe Biden called out Russia and issued harsh sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine, his only other public appearance was an event focused on the need to unkink the supply chain for minerals used in batteries, electronics and other technologies.
Watch Biden’s remarks in the player above.
Biden announced a $35 million investment in the domestic production of minerals and materials that are needed to create a wide range of technological devices, including computers, batteries, smartphones, vehicles and home appliances.
The Department of Defense awarded a contract to MP Materials Corp. to design and build a facility to process heavy rare earth elements (HREEs) at the company’s Mountain Pass, California production site.
The project will establish the first processing and separation facility of its kind for HREEs in support of both defense and commercial applications in the United States.
Biden’s back-to-back events on Tuesday highlighted the competing claims for Biden’s attention entering the spring of a midterm election year: the prospect of a calamitous European land war that will only add to inflation and other problems at home while also managing a vexing set of domestic challenges and must-do tasks.
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For Biden, the convergence of such urgent foreign and domestic issues puts to a test the often cavalier assertions of previous administrations that a president has to be able to “walk and chew gum” at the same time.
Biden acknowledged the troubling overlap in remarks Tuesday as oil and gasoline prices have climbed on the grim headlines from Ukraine.
He announced sanctions against Russian financial institutions, oligarchs and banks as well as Russia’s sovereign debt, effectively cutting the country off from U.S. and European financial systems.
Yet Biden also said he wants to limit the “pain” to Americans because sanctions aimed at pressuring Russian President Vladimir Putin could also limit Russia’s exports of oil and natural gas and cause global energy prices to soar.
His White House this week is also vetting nominees for a coming opening on the Supreme Court.
Add that 40-year high inflation, a stalled domestic agenda, a slew of executive orders to enforce, infrastructure dollars to spend and sagging approval ratings that could make implementation all the more difficult. And the impact of the COVID pandemic, while seeming to fade, is still being felt.
Biden used the minerals event to stress the importance of investing in U.S. production and avoiding reliance on China.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom greeted Biden at the minerals event Tuesday afternoon by expressing surprise that the virtual event hadn’t been rescheduled because of Ukraine.
“I had an over-under that you were going to this today,” Newsom joked. “Thank you for not canceling on us.”
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