By Casey Harper | The Center Square
President Joe Biden delivered the State of the Union address for the first time in his presidency Tuesday night, tackling a range of issues from the invasion of Ukraine and the status of the economy to funding police and securing the border.
“Last year, COVID-19 kept us apart,” Biden said to kick off the address. “This year, we’re finally together again.”
Biden quickly turned to Russia, rebuking Russian President Vladimir Putin for the invasion of Ukraine.
“Tonight, I’m announcing that we will join our allies in closing off American airspace to all Russian flights, further isolating Russia and adding an additional squeeze on their economy,” Biden said.
The ambassador from Ukraine attended the address and received a standing ovation. Biden also praised the resolve of the Ukrainian people.
“From President Zelenskyy to every Ukrainian, their fearlessness, their courage, their determination, literally inspires the world,” Biden said.
“Putin may circle Kyiv with tanks, but he will never gain the hearts and souls of the Ukrainian people,” he said. “He will never extinguish their love of freedom. He will never weaken the resolve of the free world.”
Biden took a shot at the tax cuts passed during the Trump administration, which was met by boos from some Republicans and cheers from Democrats.
“Unlike the $2 trillion tax cut passed in the previous administration that benefits the top 1% … the American Rescue Plan helped working people and left no one behind,” Biden said.
Biden called for background checks and a ban on firearms with high capacity magazines and went out of his way to emphasize the need for funding police as he hit a litany of issues.
“Fund them,” Biden said. “Fund them. Fund them with resources and training. …They need to protect our communities.”
Biden touted his Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, calling her “one of our nation’s top legal minds who will continue in Justice Breyer’s legacy of excellence.”
Biden called for securing the border and fixing the immigration system and pointed to new border technology, joint patrols and dedicated immigration judges. He also called for providing a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers.”
Biden touted job creation last year, a result of the rebound from lifting COVID-19-era lockdowns. He also touted his proposal of a global minimum tax rate for corporations.
“What are we waiting for?” he asked. “Let’s get this done.”
Biden called for lowering energy costs, child care costs and drug prices, saying Medicare should be able to negotiate the price of prescription drugs, emphasizing the cost of insulin.
“They already set the price for VA drugs,” he argued.
Critics pointed out the Biden administration overturned a Trump-era rule that would have lowered the price of insulin.
“Donald Trump cut the price of insulin and Joe Biden ended it,” said Brigitte Gabriel, founder of Act For America.
Biden announced there would be a chief prosecutor for pandemic fraud, which has been rampant since Congress passed pandemic relief funding.
Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds gave the Republican response to Biden’s speech. She compared America today with the America of the late 1970s and early 1980s with soaring inflation, violent crime and a dangerous Soviet Union.
“We shouldn’t ignore what happened in the run up to Putin’s invasion: waiving sanctions on Russian pipelines while eliminating oil production here at home, focusing on political correctness rather than military readiness, reacting to world events instead of driving them,” Reynolds said. “Weakness on the world stage has a cost, and the president’s approach to foreign policy has consistently been too little too late.
“It’s time for America to once again project confidence,” she said. “It’s time to lead.”
Reynolds turned to domestic issues such as inflation and gas prices, saying, “We can’t project strength abroad if we are weak at home.”
“The president and Democrats in congress have spent the last year either ignoring the issues facing Americans or making them worse,” she said. “They were warned that spending trillions would lead to soaring inflation. They were told that their anti-energy policies would send gas prices to new heights, but they plowed ahead anyway.”
Other Republicans released statements in response to the president’s speech and pointed at the economic issues since Biden took office.
“Under President Trump, our economy was booming,” U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said. “We need to replicate that success. Americans are anxious for those days to return. To build optimism and prosperity again, we must ease regulatory burdens, strengthen critical American supply chains, unleash American energy and stop the Left’s extreme spending and socialist agenda.”
Other Republicans pointed to the chaotic and deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan and Biden’s handling of Putin and Ukraine.
“Are you better off than you were a year ago?” House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said. “For most people, the answer is, ‘no.’ ”
Biden ended his more-than-an-hour-long speech by painting an optimistic picture for the nation.
“The state of the Union is strong because you, the American people, are strong,” Biden said.