WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden called on Republicans to work with him to “finish the job” of rebuilding the economy and uniting the nation in his State of the Union address Tuesday night as he addressed pessimism in the country. sought to overcome and navigate the political. Division in Washington.
The backdrop of the annual address was markedly different from the previous two years, with a Republican speaker sitting expressionless behind Biden and GOP lawmakers preparing to scrutinize both his administration and his policies. Biden sought to reassure the nation that his leadership of the country has delivered results both at home and abroad, as he also prepares to prove his fitness for a possible re-election bid.
But Biden faces many challenges: economic uncertainty, an exhausting war in Ukraine, rising tensions with China, and more. And signs of past trauma at the Capitol, especially the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol, were inevitable, with a large fence enclosing the compound as lawmakers and attendees faced tighter security measures than usual .
Party divisions were clear from the start. Democrats – including Vice President Kamala Harris – applauded as Biden began his speech. New Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, although he warmly greeted the president as he entered the chamber, remained in his seat.
Instead of rolling out flashy policy proposals, The president set out to present a reassuring assessment of the nation’s condition, declaring that two years after the Capitol attack, America’s democracy was “unshakable and unbroken”.
“The story of America is a story of progress and resilience,” he said, highlighting record job creation during his tenure as the country emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden pointed to areas of bipartisan progress in his first two years in office, including the states’ critical infrastructure and high-tech manufacturing. And he adds, “There’s no reason we can’t work together in this new Congress.”
“People have sent us a clear message. Fighting for fight’s sake, power for power’s sake, struggle for struggle’s sake, gets us nowhere,” Biden said. “And that has always been my vision for the country: to restore the soul of the nation, to rebuild the backbone of America – the middle class – to unite the country.”
“We were sent here to finish the job!”
The president took the floor of the House at a time when only a quarter of American adults say that things are moving in the right direction in the country. A new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, Nearly three quarters say things are on the wrong track. And most Democrats do not want Biden to seek another term.
He tried to cope with those feelings.
“You wonder whether there is a way forward for you and your children, I understand,” Biden said. “That is why we are building an economy where no one is left behind. Jobs are coming back, pride is coming back because of the choices we made in the last two years.”
Arkansas Gov. Gaining a National Profile as Trump’s Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was to give a Republican response to Biden’s speech.
He was to focus much of his commentary on social issues, including race in business and education, and the perceived big-tech censorship of conservatives.
According to excerpts released by his office, “When you cut through the consequences of their failures, the Biden administration seems more interested in whipping up fantasies than the hard realities facing Americans every day.” “Most Americans want to live their lives in freedom and peace, but we are under attack in a leftist culture war that we didn’t start and we never wanted to fight.”
Now with COVID-19 restrictions lifted, the White House and legislators from both parties invited guests designed to deliver a domestic political message with their presence in the House chamber. parent of tyre nicholswho was brutally beaten by police officers in Memphis and later died Among those sitting with First Lady Jill Biden. Other Biden guests included rock star/humanitarian Bono and the 26-year-old man who disarmed a gunman during a shooting last month in Monterey Park, California.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus invited family members of those involved in police incidents as they sought to press for action on police reform in the wake of Nichols’ death. Prior to the speech the White House linked police reform with reducing violence, suggesting that giving police better training equipment could reduce crime across the country.
Biden was changing his sights after spending his first two years pushing through key bills such as a bipartisan infrastructure package, legislation to boost high-tech manufacturing and climate measures. With Republicans now in control of the House, he’s turning his attention to implementing those big pieces of legislation and making sure voters give him credit for reform.
“My Republican friends who voted against it, but still asked to fund projects in their districts, don’t worry,” Biden said. “I promised to be president for all Americans. We will fund your projects. And I will see you at the ground-breaking.
The switch is largely out of necessity. The newly empowered GOP is itching to undo many of their accomplishments and is vowing to pursue a multitude of investigations — including investigating Recent discovery of classified documents From his time as vice president to his home and former office.
At the same time, Biden will need to find a way to keep the government funded by raising the federal debt ceiling until this summer. He has insisted that he will not negotiate to meet the country’s debt obligations; Republicans have been equally adamant that they should cut spending.
On the eve of the president’s address, McCarthy challenged Biden to come to the negotiating table with House Republicans to reduce spending as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling.
“We must move toward a balanced budget and insist on real accountability for every dollar we spend,” McCarthy said.
While hopes of widespread bipartisanship are slim, Biden restated his 2022 appeal to Congress on the back of his “Unity Agenda” actions to address the opioid epidemic, mental health, veterans’ health and cancer. He announced new executive action and urged lawmakers to act to support new measures to address cancer research, address housing needs and prevent suicide of the elderly, increase access to mental health care, and move forward on deadly trafficking in fentanyl. called upon.
The president also called for extending the new $35 per month price cap on insulin for people on Medicare to everyone in the country. And he pushed Congress to quadruple the 1% tax on corporate share buybacks that was passed last year in the Democrats’ climate and health care bill, known as the Inflation Reduction Act.
The speech came days after Biden ordered the military to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that was speeding across the country, captivating the nation and serving as a reminder of strained relations between the two global powers.
Biden said, “Make no mistake: As we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to defend our country.” “And we did.”
Last year’s address came just days after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and many in the West doubted Kyiv’s ability to withstand an onslaught. Over the past year, the US and other allies have sent tens of billions of dollars in military and economic aid to strengthen Ukraine’s security. Now, Biden must make the case — both at home and abroad — for maintaining that alliance as the war rages on.
by Zeke Miller and Seung Min Kim. Lisa Mascaro contributed.