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Biden speaks in Crystal Lake after greeting Lightfoot, Preckwinkle at O’Hare

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle each had brief tarmac one-on-one conversations with the president before he left for Crystal Lake in his first visit to Illinois as president.

President Joe Biden speaks at McHenry County College in Crystal Lake on Wednesday, July 7, 2021.
President Joe Biden speaks at McHenry County College in Crystal Lake on Wednesday.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

WASHINGTON — Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle greeted President Joe Biden when Air Force One landed at O’Hare Airport on Wednesday, and each had brief one-on-one’s with him on the tarmac before he boarded Marine One for a helicopter ride to Crystal Lake.

Biden walked down the steps from Air Force One about 11:45 a.m., and talked to both Lightfoot and Preckwinkle on the tarmac. Though the huddles were quick, the few minutes was probably enough for Lightfoot to press the plea she said she would make for Biden to send in more federal aid to Chicago to combat ongoing gun violence.

Hours before Biden made his first visit as president to Illinois, two federal agents and a Chicago police officer were shot. The police officer was grazed in the back of the head, an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was shot in the hand, and another ATF agent was wounded in his side, police said. All were taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center.

Briefing reporters on Air Force One en route to O’Hare, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said regarding the latest violence that “the administration is in touch with the mayor of Chicago about the shootings overnight and offered condolences for the families.”

After Biden spoke in Crystal Lake, Psaki said in a statement, “During a greet with Mayor Lightfoot on the airport tarmac, President Biden expressed his personal support for the two ATF officials and the Chicago police officer who were shot earlier today. He reiterated his commitment to working with the Mayor and leaders in Chicago in the fight against gun violence and conveyed that the Department of Justice would soon be in touch about the strike force announced just a few weeks ago that will be working with cities like Chicago.”

Among the Democratic elected officials in Crystal Lake getting photos with Biden if they wanted:

Gov. J.B. Pritzker; Reps. Lauren Underwood, Sean Casten (they represent Crystal Lake); Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth; Rep. Robin Kelly, Democratic Party of Illinois chair; Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi; Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton; Illinois House Speaker Chris Welch; Illinois Senate President Don Harmon; Illinois State Treasurer Mike Frerichs. State Senator Craig Wilcox and Crystal Lake Mayor Haig Haleblian

According to a pool report, Psaki also told reporters traveling with her:

  • On the trip to Illinois: “The President will make the case for generational investments in human infrastructure and other critical priorities like clean energy” as part of his Build Back Better agenda. “You will also hear him talking about the fact that as a former single father, he will stress that his plan is to help boost childcare affordability by building new childcare centers and ensuring that no middle class family pays more than 7% of their income on high-quality care for children up to age five. He will also note that the Build Back Better plan will invest in childcare and workforce provide parents with an up to an $8,000 tax credit to cover their childcare expenses to 12 weeks of paid family medical leave and extend extend the expanded child tax credit from the rescue plan.”
  • On whether politics is a consideration in terms of the Illinois visit: “The President is visiting this district in Illinois today in part because Congresswoman Lauren Underwood is a registered nurse. She’s a champion for health care and expanding access to affordable health care. And that certainly is part of what’s under discussion and what is part of his Build Back Better agenda.” She added that Biden sees himself as the “explainer in chief.”

Biden will be at the McHenry County College, a community college in Crystal Lake, to promote his American Families Plan pending in Congress, to highlight the impact of his COVID-19 relief package — known as the American Rescue Plan — and to push for Congress to approve his other domestic spending proposals, including free community college tuition.

Before Biden delivers remarks, he will tour McHenry County College to “see how his Build Back Better” agenda helps students and educators.

Biden will throw the spotlight on Underwood, who is expected to be a GOP target to defeat in 2022 - as she was in 2020 and 2018 - when they visit the child care room at the college and Underwood and Biden will discuss the child care benefits for parents in the American Families plan. Getting affordable child care is key for many financially struggling parents.

Biden, at the child care room with Underwood, pointed to Underwood and said: “This woman here, hang on to her.”

President Joe Biden is greeted by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, center, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, left, as he arrives at O’Hare International Airport, Wednesday.
President Joe Biden is greeted by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, center, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, left, as he arrives at O’Hare International Airport, Wednesday.
Evan Vucci/AP

According to a preview from the White House, “at McHenry County College, which has a workforce development program and a child care center, the president will underline the specific, game-changing impacts that the Build Back Better Agenda will have on Americans’ lives and how, from an economic growth and competitiveness standpoint, we can’t afford to wait to deliver on it.

“The President will argue that to build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out, we need to invest in our people through providing 4 additional years of public education to every student, through increasing Pell Grants and investing in job training.”

Biden will also highlight the first payment of the enhanced child tax credit, with the first payments coming to families with adjusted gross income of less than $150,000 on July 15. The payments will be, for more eligible families, between $250 and $300 per child.

The American Rescue plan already has provided significant financial help to Illinois, which got a credit upgrade in part because of the billions of federal dollars sent to Illinois in the wake of the economic collapse caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the White House, under the Biden administration Illinois received:

• $8.13 billion in state fiscal relief.

• $5.93 billion in local fiscal relief.

• More than $5.2 billion in relief for K-12 schools.

• Economic impact payments of up to $1,400 per person (above the $600 per person provided in December) for more than 7.5 million adults and 3 million children. This is 85% of all adults in the state and 83% of all children in the state.

• Additional relief of up to $1,600 per child through the Child Tax Credit to the families of 2.5 million children, lifting 153,000 children out of poverty.

• Additional relief of up to nearly $1,000 through the Earned Income Tax Credit to 620,000 childless workers, including many in frontline jobs.

• Marketplace health insurance premiums that are $1,266 lower per month for a 60-year old couple earning $75,000 per year.

Trump Supporters at McHenry College

Before Biden set foot in the gymnasium of McHenry County College, supporters of former President Donald Trump lined a street leading into the community college to remind the Democrat he was still in “MAGA Country.”

A few dozen Trump supporters rallied outside the college in Crystal Lake, slowing traffic as they waved U.S. flags, or banners that read “Trump Country” and “Make America Proud Again” as drivers in passing cars honked.

McHenry County was carried by Trump in 2020.

“Fight for your country!” a woman, who did not give her name, yelled into a megaphone over cheers from other Trump supporters.

Trump supporters rallied outside McHenry County College in Crystal Lake on Wednesday, July 7, 2021 before a visit by President Joe Biden.
Trump supporters rallied outside McHenry County College in Crystal Lake on Wednesday before a visit by President Joe Biden.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times