President Joe Biden gave his first State of the Union address to a maskless audience of politicians, Supreme Court justices and Cabinet secretaries at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday evening.
“Last year COVID-19 kept us apart, this year we’re finally together again. Tonight we meet as Democrats, Republicans and Independents, but most importantly as Americans with a duty to one another, to America, to the American people, to the Constitution and an unwavering resolve that freedom triumph over tyranny, " Biden began his address, which would last just over an hour.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine was clearly on the audience’s — and the president’s — mind, with a large number of guests to the House floor wearing ribbons or pins honoring the Ukrainian flag.
Russian President Vladimir Putin “badly miscalculated” when attacking Ukraine, Biden said. “He thought he could roll in Ukraine and the world would roll over. Instead, he was met with a wall of strength he never anticipated or imagined. He met the Ukrainian people.”
Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova sat beside first lady Jill Biden. “She’s bright, she’s strong, she’s resolved,” Biden said of the diplomat.
The president outlined fiscal sanctions against Russia and Russian oligarchs and formally announced the release of oil reserves to combat gas prices. He reiterated that American military forces would not participate in the fighting in Ukraine but are being staged in European countries to support NATO allies.
“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 onto their economy,” Biden declared.
On domestic policy, the president spoke at length about improving the American’s infrastructure, keeping jobs in the States and helping American families.
“Instead of relying on foreign supply chains, let’s make it in America,” Biden said, spurring applause and a chant of “U.S.A.!” from the House floor.
He called on Congress to approve White House plans to cut child care costs and pharmaceutical prices, legislation, Biden said, that could help American families.
In conclusion to the hourlong address, Biden offered a “unity agenda,” or four items he said that politicians from both parties could do together. Those agenda items included beating the opioid epidemic, addressing mental health, supporting America’s veterans and bringing an end to cancer.
“The state of the union is strong because you, the American people, are strong. We are stronger today than we were a year ago, and we’ll be stronger a year from now than we are today. This is our moment to meet and overcome the challenges of our time, and we will, as one people, one America, the United States of America,” Biden ended the address. “God bless you all. And may God protect our troops.”
All six Republicans of Utah’s congressional delegation reacted to Biden’s State of the Union Tuesday evening.
Rep. Blake Moore wrote in a statement that he appreciated the chance to attend the State of the Union, that the conflict in Ukraine has resulted in “unity amid tragedy” and he’d been inspired by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
“I also appreciated Biden’s call to fund our police, strengthen our border, and support our veterans.”
But, the Utah congressman added, Biden’s “words were hollow,” and the president’s “policies have unnecessarily abdicated global leadership.”
“In 2020, President Biden ran on a message of unity and bipartisanship, but his hyperpartisan agenda has been out of step with even mainstream Democrats. Utahns are experiencing some of the worst inflation and price hikes in our nation’s history due to his harmful tax-and-spend agenda and costly energy policies,” Moore said. “These directly hurt hardworking Utahns when they go to the gas pump, check out at the grocery store, and heat their homes.”
In a statement sent to The Salt Lake Tribune, Rep. John Curtis said he had “sat in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol Building surrounded by fellow lawmakers, judges, military, and Biden Administration leaders listening to the President of the greatest country in the world’s State of the Union address.”
“Each of us who were there tonight will take away different messages, but for me the most important one is showing unity in fighting evil around the world, and especially Putin. Together, we must have our respectful and constructive policy debates at home, but we will always unite to stop those who oppose freedom and our American values,” Curtis said.
Rep Chris Stewart said Biden had rejected a reality experienced by most Americans, a reality of “record-high inflation,” “surging crime” and “foreign-policy threats worldwide.”
“The state of the union is stressed, and the American people cannot be jawboned into believing otherwise,” Stewart said. “Still, I have faith in the fundamental values of this nation.”
Rep. Burgess Owens also did not agree with Biden’s current assessment of the United States.
“Despite what we heard tonight, the real state of our union is this: Skyrocketing inflation, rising crime, a humanitarian crisis and security threat at our southern border, supply chain gridlock, unconstitutional government overreach, a growing national debt, and weakness on the world stage,” Owens wrote in a statement Tuesday evening.
“Once again, President Biden’s agenda fails to meet the ongoing threats to the safety, security, and prosperity of Utahns in the Fourth District, Americans across the nation, and our allies around the world,” Owens concluded.
Sen. Mitt Romney said Biden had “successfully brought together our friends and allies to coordinate a unified and powerful response to Putin’s actions,” but that he had “hoped to hear the president address the investment needs of our military and ways to strengthen our national defense.”
The senator said that although Russia is the problem of today, “we must not forget that China is operating in the background and remains the problem of tomorrow.”
And although Romney said Biden did mention inflation in his address and how it was hurting American families, the senator said, “Adding all of this new government spending, however, will only worsen the inflation problem. It was caused, in large part, by the totally unnecessary COVID relief package Democrats passed a year ago.”
Romney called on Republicans and Democrats to continue working on bipartisan legislation, like the infrastructure bill that passed last year.
“I was pleased to hear President Biden outline possible areas for bipartisan cooperation and I hope we can come together to tackle inflation, family policies like the child tax credit, and shoring up American energy resources,” Romney concluded in a video uploaded to his official YouTube account after the address.
Sen. Mike Lee accused Biden of speaking only “to a narrow portion of his base because he’s losing it.”
“Instead of giving Americans a reason to have hope for the future, Biden can’t seem to get past the crisis of his making,” Lee alleged, adding that it was “the absolute weakest possible position for a leader.”
“Americans deserve more and we need to expect better than this,” Lee concluded in his statement posted to Twitter.