Good morning, OnPolitics readers!
Last night, President Joe Biden gave his first State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. If you missed the address, we’ve got you covered!
Full SOTU transcript available
Biden spoke about several of his administration’s domestic prioritiessuch as voting rights, combatting rising inflation, the electrification of the transportation system to fight climate change and other challenges. Read the full transcript of Biden’s address here.
Biden’s key points from his State of the Union
With his Build Back Better social spending agenda stalled in Congress, the White House hoped to use the primetime speech to introduce his historic Supreme Court nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, and jump-start his domestic agenda.
but then Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. With Russian troops bearing down on Ukraine’s capital amid a rising death toll, Biden led his speech from him with the escalating conflict in Eastern Europe, hailing the unified response by the US and its Western allies.
“In the battle between democracies and autocracies, democracies are rising at the moment,” Biden said. “Putin may circle Kyiv with tanks, but he’ll never gain the hearts and souls of the Ukrainian people. He’ll never extinguish their love of freedom.”
No mention of “BBB”: A centerpiece of Biden’s presidential campaign and his first year in the White House was conspicuously absent from his State of the Union. Biden did not use the “Build Back Better” slogan that was a rallying cry on the campaign trail in 2020 and the moniker attached to his legislative plan to expand the social safety net.
After that plan was put on the shelf because it could not win the support of Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., Biden’s slogan apparently has joined it. Biden seemed to replace it in his State of the Union with “building a better America,” even as he continued to pitch some of the same policies that were part of his larger agenda.
Biden also earned some bipartisan applause for saying “fund the police” during his speech. The president noted that the American Rescue Plan provided $350 billion for local governments to hire more police and invest in “proven strategies like community interruption violence.”
Biden’s low poll ratings ahead of SOTU: Tuesday’s speech came at a particularly tough time for Biden, with his poll numbers sinking to new lows and his party fearing big losses in November’s midterm elections.
Biden’s approval-disapproval rating is steady but dismal at 39%-57%, including a striking 44% who say they “strongly” disapprove of the job he is doing as president. Despite economic growth and low unemployment, a 51% majority of those surveyed say the economy is in a recession or a depression, the gloomiest outlook in six years.
Biden sought to reframe the conversation about rising inflation – which Republicans have pounded him on for months – by making the case for stronger US manufacturing and production.
“I get it,” Biden said of the ongoing spike in consumer prices. “That’s why one of my top priorities is getting prices under control.”
Republican Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ rebuttal
Republicans used Biden’s State of the Union to launch campaign-style attacks Tuesday on what many GOP members see as the congressional elections’ top issue: Biden himself.
“Weakness on the world stage has a cost, and the president’s approach to foreign policy has consistently been too little too late,” said Gov. Kim Reynolds, R-Iowa., in the Republican Party’s formal response to the State of the Union.
Reynolds accused Biden of bringing the nation back to the late 1970s and early 1980s, at a time when “runaway inflation was hammering families, a violent crime wave was crashing on our cities and the Soviet army was trying to redraw the world map.”
In an avalanche of statements, interviews and social media postings, Republicans chastised Biden over inflation, the economy in general, foreign policy and the Russian invasion of Ukraine – and claimed they could handle it all better if they get to control Congress after the November elections .
A progressive response to SOTU
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., called for student loan debt forgiveness and passage of the Build Back Better Act and voting rights legislation during her Working Families Party’s response to the State of the Union.
“The majority of the Build Back Better agenda is stalled, Mr. President. Our work is unfinished. We are ready to jumpstart our work again,” Tlaib, a Democrat, said on behalf of the independent political party.
Tlaib also touted the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill during her address but said her fellow Democrats need to do more work.
“We campaigned on doing even more. Roads and bridges are critical but so are child care and prescription drugs. And we shouldn’t have to choose,” she said.
A historic night for women
They made history last year as the first time two women who sat behind the president during a joint session in the House Chamber, but Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi once again made history, marking the first time two women sat behind the president during the State of the Union.
“Madam Speaker, Madam Vice President, our First Lady and Second Gentleman,” Biden said as he stood at the podium. Last year, Biden made the same remarks, followed by, “No president has ever said those words from this podium and it’s about time.”
From Chuck Schumer to Stephen Breyer, here are some viral memes from the State of the Union. — Amy
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism