Biden addressed his legislative agenda for the coming year, including economic goals, relations with China, and police reform.
U.S. President Joe Biden delivered the annual State of the Union address, the second of his presidency, in which he outlined his policy goals and spoke about accomplishments as he ponders running for a second term.
But Tuesday’s speech was the first delivered before a divided Congress, which interrupted the president during the sometimes combative speech.
Facing a Democratic-led Senate and a House of Representatives now under Republican control, the 80-year-old president touted his economic record and victories on infrastructure spending, clean energy, and prescription drug prices.
Here are the five most important takeaways from this year’s speech.
Warning to China against the Threat of US Sovereignty
Biden on Tuesday warned China against threatening the United States while reiterating the position that Washington is not seeking a confrontation with Beijing.
“As we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country, and we did,” he said, referring to the downing of the balloon.
“Let’s be clear: winning the competition should bring us all together,” Biden said.
A Call for Cooperation with Republican “Friends”
The president of the United States called on Republicans to work with him, denouncing “fighting to fight.”
“Republican friends, we could work together,” he said.
“We’re often told that Democrats or Republicans can’t work together. But in the last two years, we proved the cynics and naysayers wrong,” he said, pointing to laws passed with bipartisan support, including the Respect Marriage Act.
But Biden also took the opportunity to press Republicans, calling for cooperation as negotiations over raising the debt ceiling continue to stall.
“Some of my Republican friends want to take the economy hostage. I understand. Unless I agree with their economic plans,” Biden said to boos on the camera. He later added: “I’m not saying it’s the majority of you. But it is being proposed by individuals. Politely I’m not naming them.”
Under Republican President Kevin McCarthy, it seems unlikely that the House majority will advance many of the priorities laid out in Biden’s speech, including police reform and a “multibillion-dollar minimum tax.”
Focus On Economic Records and Infrastructure Gains
Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, the U.S. economy, hampered by inflation, was largely seen as an Achilles heel for Democrats.
But Biden’s Democratic Party managed to silence a widely expected Republican “red wave.”
On Tuesday, the U.S. president made his economic record one of the focal points, if not the central message, of his speech, praising low unemployment rates, infrastructure investments, and what he described as a return on American manufacturing.
Biden said that after years of bleeding jobs in overseas factories, the United States is on track to reverse trends in manufacturing.
“Where is it written that America cannot lead the world in manufacturing? I don’t know where it is written. For too many decades, we imported goods and exported jobs,” he told lawmakers.
“Now, thanks to what all of you have done, we are exporting American products and creating American jobs.”
He also praised a 2021 bipartisan law that secured $1.2 trillion to revitalize the country’s infrastructure.
“We’ve sunk to 13th in the world, the United States of America, to 13th in the world, for infrastructure, modern infrastructure,” Biden said.
“But now we’re coming back because we came together and passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill, the largest investment infrastructure since President Eisenhower’s interstate highway system.”
Pressuring Corporations to Pay Their “Fair Share”
Laying out an ambitious policy goal of modernizing the U.S. economy and combating the climate crisis, Biden said his agenda would be funded “finally by getting the wealthiest and largest corporations to start paying their fair share” in taxes.
“I’m a capitalist, but pay your fair share,” Biden said. “I think many of you at home agree with me… The tax system is not fair.”
He went on to highlight his administration’s efforts to crack down on hidden costs charged to consumers by major companies, known as junk fees.
“Big corporations aren’t just taking advantage of the tax code. They’re taking advantage of you, the American consumer,” Biden said, adding, “Capitalism without competition is not capitalism. It’s exploitation.”
Biden also called for capping the price of insulin to $35 for all Americans, after a law went into effect limiting the cost for seniors on Medicare, a healthcare program primarily for older Americans.
“Let’s finish the job this time. Let’s limit the cost… for everyone to $35. Big Pharma is still going to do very well, I promise you,” he said.
Urge Police Accountability and a Ban on Assault Weapons
Salute to the parents of Tyre Nichols, a black man who died after being beaten by police officers in Memphis, Tennessee, Biden called for police reforms.
“We have to do better,” Biden said. “Give law enforcement the actual training they need, hold them to higher standards, and help them succeed in keeping us safe.”
The president said what happened to Nichols “happens all too often.”
“When police officers or police departments violate the public trust, they must be held accountable,” Biden said.
“We all want the same thing: violence-free neighborhoods. Law enforcement that earns the trust of the community.”
His comments came amid Republican criticism that Democrats are “soft on crime” as they seek criminal justice reform.
But on Tuesday, Biden struck a balance between recognizing the difficulties law enforcement officers face and the need to reduce police violence. He also called for greater community resources to be provided.
“We also need more first responders and professionals to address growing mental health and substance abuse challenges; more resources to reduce violent crime and gun crime; for community intervention programs; More investments for housing, education, and job training,” he said.
He also strongly opposed the use of semi-automatic “assault weapons,” calling for a 1994 ban to be revived to address the current wave of mass shootings in the United States.
“Ban assault weapons now,” Biden said emphatically. “Ban them now, once and for all.”
Source: AL JAZEERA