WATCH: Biden jokes that Republicans may impeach him because inflation is starting to cool

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AUBURN, Maine (AP) — President Joe Biden — buoyed by new signs the economy is continuing on the upswing — took a swipe on Friday at House Republicans’ flirtations with an impeachment inquiry, quipping that GOP lawmakers may decide to impeach him because inflation is cooling down.

Watch Biden’s remarks in the player above.

Standing in a textile manufacturing facility in Auburn Biden pointed to inflation statistics that showed the U.S. has the lowest rate of price increases among the world’s biggest economies. Though he was careful to say he was not taking a victory lap on the economy, Biden suggested that his Republican opponents in Congress may need to find a fresh line of attack against him because of improving economic circumstances.

“Maybe they’ll decide to impeach me because it’s coming down,” Biden said. “I don’t know. I’d love that one.”

Earlier this week, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy made his most direct remarks yet that GOP lawmakers could launch an impeachment inquiry into Biden over unproven claims of financial misconduct related to Hunter Biden, the president’s son. However, the California Republican has acknowledged privately that it’s too soon to know whether the president was aware of — much less involved in — his son’s financial dealings in a way that would rise to the level of impeachable conduct.

While McCarthy publicly floated the inquiry this week, the White House has engaged little with those efforts, instead focused on promoting “Bidenomics” and the president’s domestic agenda. Aides have repeatedly played down any inquiry as a hypothetical and pointed out the hesitation among McCarthy’s own ranks about pursuing impeachment against the president.

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“We’re not going to get into what House Republicans want to do, may not do, hypotheticals, that’s on them,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Air Force One en route to Maine earlier Friday. “What I can speak to is exactly what we’re doing today, right? We’re going to Maine. We’re going to be able to talk about an issue that matters to Americans: investing in America, manufacturing, bringing good union-paying jobs back to America.”

Indeed, that was the focus of the White House on Friday, as Biden used the trip to Maine to sign an executive order that would encourage companies to manufacture new inventions in the United States. It was Biden’s first trip to the state as president.

“I’m not here to declare victory on the economy. We have more work to do,” Biden said. But “we have a plan for turning things around. ‘Bidenomics’ is just another way of saying restoring the American dream.”

The Democrat won three out of the state’s four electoral votes in 2020 and is seeking to shore up his support in the state. Maine allocates its electoral votes by congressional district, and Biden lost the vote in the state’s 2nd District, which provided the only electoral vote in New England for then-President Donald Trump, a Republican.

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By going to that district on Friday, Biden sought to show its blue-collar voters that he’s committed to them, as a single electoral vote could be critical in a narrow 2024 presidential election.

Democrats can compete in Maine’s 2nd District as Rep. Jared Golden has been its congressman since 2019. But Golden has also been one of the Democratic lawmakers who has openly criticized Biden over his handling of debt limit talks this year and the administration’s forgiveness of student debt that has since been overturned by the Supreme Court. Despite distancing himself from the White House on some policies, Golden traveled with Biden on Air Force One on Friday.

And shortly before Biden spoke at Auburn Manufacturing Inc., Golden noted to the audience that “it’s no secret” he doesn’t always agree with the president’s agenda but that he “proudly” supports Bidenomics.

Republicans have said that Biden’s policies have led to higher inflation. Consumer prices climbed to a four-decade high last summer, but inflation has eased over the past 12 months to a rate of 3 percent annually.

“Bidenomics is hurting working people in my district,” said Maine state Rep. Joshua Morris, a Republican. “The cost of groceries, heating oil, gas, health care and electricity have gone up as a result of Joe Biden’s policies. He should be apologizing to us while he’s here, not bragging.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee went on the attack against Golden, calling him “Joe Biden’s loyal foot soldier” who had backed inflation-boosting policies earlier in his presidency.

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The White House outlined the executive order being signed by Biden, which would improve the transparency of federal research and development programs to meet the administration’s goals for domestic manufacturing. The order asks agencies to weigh U.S. national security and economic interests when determining if domestic manufacturing requirements should be broadened.

The order also urges federal agencies to consider domestic production when investing in research and development and to use their own legal authorities to encourage manufacturing new technologies in the U.S. But when goods cannot be made in the U.S., the order instructs the Commerce Department to create a clearer and timelier process for receiving a waiver.

Auburn Manufacturing Inc., where Biden spoke Friday, is a maker of heat- and fire-resistant fabrics for industries that include shipbuilding, oil refining and electricity generation. The company challenged China for its unfair trade practices regarding amorphous silica fabric, or ASF, which is a heat-resistant material.

Biden was also scheduled to appear at a fundraiser in Freeport, Maine, later Friday.

Kim reported from Washington. AP writer David Sharp contributed to this report from Portland, Maine.

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