At a moment of global chaos, President Joe Biden delivered his first State of the Union address after a year marked by struggles with the coronavirus pandemic, continued GOP obstruction to his Democratic agenda, and more recently Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, whichis the biggest European land war since World War II.
Biden focused his speech on America’s leadership role in the world and finished with an appeal to the core ideals of America, grabbing the opportunity to rally Republicans and Democrats behind the broadly shared goal of opposing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dangerous military aggression but coming up short among GOP lawmakers on such topics as keeping Americans safe, combatting inflation and cutting prescription drug costs.
“Members of the European Union, including France, Germany, Italy, as well as countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and many others — even Switzerland — are inflicting pain on Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine,” said Biden. “Putin is now isolated from the world more than he has ever been.”
The speech unfolded against a brutal backdrop as fighting intensified in what has become the biggest European land war since World War II. In the opening moments of his address, Biden noted the rejection of Russia and embrace of Ukraine by Americans of all stripes as evidence of the country’s underlying commonality.
“We fought for freedom, expanded liberty, defeated totalitarianism and terror. We built the strongest, freest and most prosperous nation the world has ever known,” Biden said toward the end of his address. “Now is the hour. Our moment of responsibility. Our test of resolve and conscience, of history itself,” he said, adding “I know this nation will meet the test. To protect freedom and liberty, to expand fairness and opportunity. We will save democracy.”
Most lawmakers in the chamber displayed unity as Biden spoke about Ukraine, as some waved small Ukrainian flags and Republicans joined Democrats in applauding his condemnations of Russia but that unity evaporated as soon as he mentioned domestic policy.
When Biden discussed immigration, Republican Congressional crackpots Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene disrupted the speech by screaming, “Build the wall,” alluding to former President Donald Trump’s failed cockamamie proposal to construct a barrier along the 1954-mile U.S. border, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. Those who persist in their demands for a wall ignore the financial, legal, and natural obstacles that make the proposal an unviable option that would create a host of negative consequences.
Boebert also breached decorum for the presidential address by heckling Biden about the 13 service members killed during the U.S. withdrawal in Afghanistan and ridiculing the death of Biden’s son, who died of cancer and was among the many veterans who may have suffered from toxic exposure injuries from military burn pits.
Biden started to say “A cancer that put them in a flag-draped coffin” when Boebert yelled, “You put them in. Thirteen of them!”
It was just the latest , an annual event where unruly behavior by lawmakers has become almost expected. Republican Rep. Joe Wilson shouted “you lie!” at President Barack Obama during a joint speech to Congress in 2009.
Biden also vowed to keep fighting inflation, calling it his “top priority. He declared a “new moment” in the fight against the pandemic, saying, “We are moving forward safely, back to more normal routines.”
And pushing back against a slogan adopted by some activists, he proclaimed, “The answer is not to defund the police,” Biden said. “It’s to fund the police. Fund them. Fund them with resources and training.”
Biden got Democratic support but Republican nothing when he discussed measure to protect voting, energy, housing, child care and other domestic policy issues.
Biden did not address GOP Sen. Rick Scott’s proposed plan to raise taxes on the poorest half of the American people and sunset Social Security and Medicare within five years, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that the Florida lawmaker’s conservative blueprint “will not be part of the Republican Senate Majority Agenda” if he is in charge after the midterm elections.
Biden declared that “it’s time for Americans to get back to work” as he announced new efforts to allow people to return to normal activities safely after two years of pandemic disruptions.
Biden announced that his administration was launching a “test-to-treat” initiative to provide free antiviral pills at pharmacies to those who test positive for the virus and highlighted progress made on the pandemic with a dramatic reduction in cases, readily-available vaccines and tests, and therapeutic treatments becoming accessible.
“Tonight, I can say we are moving forward safely, back to more normal routines,” Biden said. “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again.”
The President also discussed the need to rebuild decaying systems that have failed to receive the necessary investments over the past four decades.
“America used to have the best roads, bridges, and airports on Earth,” Biden said. “Now our infrastructure is ranked 13th in the world. We won’t be able to compete for the jobs of the 21st Century if we don’t fix that.”
Calling his Bipartisan Infrastructure Law “the most sweeping investment to rebuild America in history” Biden predicted that an economic renaissance will improve lives for millions of working middle-class families that were left behind by Republican trickle-down policies.
“It is going to transform America and put us on a path to win the economic competition of the 21st Century that we face with the rest of the world—particularly with China,” Biden said. “As I’ve told Xi Jinping, it is never a good bet to bet against the American people.”
“We’ll create good jobs for millions of Americans, modernizing roads, airports, ports, and waterways all across America,” Biden said. “And we’ll do it all to withstand the devastating effects of the climate crisis and promote environmental justice.”