Vice President Pence says Marinette Marine to benefit from defense budget

MARINETTE, Wis. (WBAY) - Vice President Mike Pence says Fincantieri Marinette Marine is planning a $100 million investment in Marinette and 700 new jobs.

Vice President Mike Pence arrives in Green Bay with Rep. Mike Gallagher. Nov. 20, 2019. (WBAY Photo)

Pence visited the shipbuilder Wednesday. He toured a U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ship made by FMM and delivered a speech to workers.

"Fincantieri is hiring in Marinette. This is a growing economy and a growing state and a growing nation," says Pence.

CLICK HERE to watch the full speech.

Pence says President Donald Trump's $750 billion defense budget includes the largest shipbuilding budget request for the Navy in 20 years. Pence says Trump ultimately wants a 350-ship Navy. "You're going to build a lot of it in Marinette," said Pence.

U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia traveled with the vice president and delivered remarks ahead of the second-in-command.

Scalia called Marinette Marine a "monument to American prowess."

Earlier in the day, Air Force Two landed at Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay shortly before 10:30 a.m. Pence and Gallagher disembarked the plane and greeted people who were waiting on the tarmac.

A motorcade transported Pence from the airport to Marinette. Reporter Brittany Schmidt and videojournalist Will Sentowski traveled with the motorcade and will have coverage Wednesday on Action 2 News.

During the motorcade, the vice president stopped to greet Garfield Elementary School children who had lined up along the route.

At Marinette Marine, Pence pushed the crowd to call Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wisconsin) to support of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The vice president said the "clock is ticking" as the administration would like to see it passed before the start of the 2020 election year.

The vice president has been making stops across the Midwest in effort to pressure democrats in Congress to pass USMCA. The trade pact would "modernize" the NAFTA pact, which has been in place since 1994.. The Trump administration says USMCA will open markets and reduce trade barriers between the North American countries. CLICK HERE to learn more about the trade agreement.

Pence says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has had the bill on her desk for a year but Democrats in Congress have refused to bring it to the floor for a vote.

"The time has come for Democrats in Congress to put politics aside, put America first and pass the USMCA," said Pence.

Rep. Kind responded Wednesday, “While Vice President Pence is being political and misleading Wisconsinites, I have been working for months to fix this poorly negotiated agreement. Unless this trade deal is fully enforceable Wisconsin farmers, workers, and families may lose jobs and opportunities to other countries. I will keep working diligently with my colleagues so we can finally get USMCA across the finish line.”

Speaker Pelosi has said that her party is close to a deal with the White House on USMCA. Pelosi told reporters she would like to see a trade deal pass the house by the end of the year.

It's been nearly one year since USMCA was signed by President Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. It still needs approval from the U.S. Congress.

Pence claims USMCA will add about $70 billion to the economy and create 50,000 manufacturing jobs. Addressing Wisconsin voters, he claimed the deal will increase exports of milk and cheese by 68,000 tons.

Fincantieri Marinette Marine says it has signed onto the Trump administration's Pledge to America's Workers aimed at job training people of all ages. Marinette Marine says signing the pledge means it is "committing to creating new or enhanced career opportunities over the next five years for American students and workers from high-school age to near-retirement, through work-based learning, continuing education, on-the-job training, and/or reskilling."

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, says she has fought cuts that President Trump proposed in the LCS program which would have put both jobs and the shipyard's long-term competitiveness at risk. For the 2018 fiscal year, when the president sought only two ships, she secured funding for a third. In the 2019 fiscal year, she secured another $1.2 billion for two more ships than the president budgeted for.

The Democratic senator also says all of the president's budget requests included eliminated the Small Shipyard Grant Program. Fincantieri Marinette Marine received $1.1 million from that grant program in 2019 and Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay received $1.4 million from the grant program in 2018.

Pence's trip to Marinette on Wednesday made good on a planned October visit that was canceled to keep the vice president in Washington as President Donald Trump announced a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds in Syria.

As Pence traveled to Northeast Wisconsin, his staffers in Washington were defending the vice president from testimony that implicated him in a "quid pro quo" with Ukraine. During House impeachment hearings, European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland said "everyone was in the loop" regarding plans to hold military aid from Ukraine if they did not open an investigation into the 2016 election and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

Sondland said he told the vice president his concerns during a conversation on Sept. 1.

“I mentioned to Vice President Pence before the meetings with the Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations,” said Sondland.

Vice President Pence’s Chief of Staff Marc Short released this statement:

“The Vice President never had a conversation with Gordon Sondland about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations.

“Ambassador Gordon Sondland was never alone with Vice President Pence on the September 1 trip to Poland. This alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened.

“Multiple witnesses have testified under oath that Vice President Pence never raised Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden, Crowdstrike, Burisma, or investigations in any conversation with Ukrainians or President Zelensky before, during, or after the September 1 meeting in Poland.”

CLICK HERE for coverage of the Sondland testimony.