WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden focused his second State of the Union address on the need for unity and “finishing the job” to help the U.S. bring down inflation, improve health care access and confront national security threats.
Biden started out by promoting his administration’s wins in its first two years. He noted that the unemployment rate was the lowest it’s been in 50 years, with his administration creating 800,000 manufacturing jobs alone.
Biden also claimed the federal deficit has been cut by more than $1.7 trillion, asserting it was the largest deficit reduction in American history.
The president also touched on the importance of buying American products, and announced a new plan that requires all construction materials used in federal infrastructure projects be made in the country.
“On my watch, American roads, American bridges, and American highways will be made with American products,” Biden said. “My economic plan is about investing in places and people that have been forgotten.”
Biden also went after a big issue that has divided Congress: how to bring down the high costs of prescription medicine.
Last Congress was able to cap insulin at $35 a month for those on Medicare but was not able to extend it to all Americans. Citing children who have juvenile diabetes as well as millions who aren’t on Medicare, Biden called on Congress to extend the cap to all American who need it.
Doing this, he said, will help cut the federal deficit and save tax payers billions of dollars.
“Make no mistake, if you try to do anything to raise the cost of prescription drugs, I will veto it,” Biden said.
Biden was able to turn heckles from some far-right Republicans to his advantage. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) stood up and yelled at Biden when he called out some members of the GOP for urging for Medicare and Social Security cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has declared that such a move will not happen.
“Tonight, let’s all agree – and we apparently are – let’s stand up for seniors. Stand up and show them, we will not cut Social Security! We will not cut Medicare!” Biden declared, prompting a standing ovation from the majority of those in attendance.
Biden turned to public education by calling for nationwide access to preschool for three and four year olds, a raise for public school teachers and the reduction of student debt.
Biden transitioned into a discussion of police brutality, and introduced his guests – the parents of Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old Black man brutally beaten by Memphis police last month. Biden noted that he’s never had to have a conversation with his children about how to remain safe if pulled over by police but that it happens to Black and Brown families “too often.”
“Imagine having to worry whether your son or daughter will come home from walking down the street, or playing in the park or just driving their car,” Biden said. “When police officers or departments violate the public’s trust, we must hold them accountable.”
Biden echoed Nichols’ parents’ wish that “something good” must come from the tragedy. He said he issued an executive order to ban police chokeholds and restrict no-knock warrants.
“Let’s come together and finish the job on police reform,” Biden said. “Do something.
The country must also do something in regards to gun violence, Biden said. He introduced Brandon Tsay, who wrestled a semi-automatic pistol away from a gunman who had already killed 11 people in Monterey Park, Calif., last month.
“He saved lives. It’s time we all do the same,” Biden said. “Ban assault weapons once and for all.”
The room remained divided after Biden called for Congress to codify Roe v. Wade. He said that if Congress attempts to pass a national abortion ban, he will veto it.
Biden’s speech was light on foreign policy but as he did during last year’s State of the Union, Biden discussed the war in Ukraine. He said that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was a “test” for America and the world.
Biden said that America passed the test by leading NATO and a global coalition to stand for Ukranian sovereignty and against Putin’s aggression.
He also discussed America’s tensions with China, saying that America seeks “competition, not conflict.” Several Republicans lawmakers have seized on the issue to try to paint the administration as weak on China.
“As we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country,” Biden said. “And we did.”
The president ended his speech looking to the future of America, saying he was “optimistic.”
“I have come here to fulfill my constitutional duty to report on the state of the union. Here is my report” Biden said. “Because the soul of this nation is strong, because the backbone of this nation is strong, because the people of this nation are strong, the State of the Union is strong.”