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State of the Union: President Joe Biden urges Republicans to “get the job done” to rebuild economy and unite nation

President Joe Biden urged Republicans again and again on Tuesday night to work with him to “get the job done” of rebuilding the economy and uniting the nation as he delivered a State of the Union address intended to reassure a country beset by pessimism and political division.

The backdrop for the annual speech was markedly different from the previous two years, with a Republican speaker sitting expressionlessly behind Biden and newly inducted GOP lawmakers in the chamber at times criticizing his administration and policies.

In his 73-minute speech, Biden sought to portray a nation that had improved dramatically from the one he took charge of two years ago: from a faltering economy to one prosperous with new jobs; from a crippled, pandemic-weary nation to one that has now reopened, and a democracy that has endured its greatest test since the Civil War.

“The story of America is a story of progress and resilience. Of always moving forward. Of never giving up. A story that is unique among all nations,” Biden said. “We are the only country that has come out of each crisis stronger than when we entered it. That’s what we’re doing again.”

“We are far from done,” he said.

Biden sought to reassure the nation that his stewardship of the country has produced results both at home and abroad, as he also sought to prove himself fit for a likely re-election bid.

But the challenges for Biden are many: economic uncertainty, a grueling war in Ukraine, rising tensions with China and more. Signs of the past trauma at the Capitol, particularly the January 6, 2021 riot, were inevitable: A large fence surrounded the complex, and lawmakers and attendees faced tighter than usual security.

From the very beginning, the partisan divisions were obvious. Democrats — including Vice President Kamala Harris — began to applaud as Biden began his speech. The new Speaker of the Republican House, Kevin McCarthy, though he had warmly greeted the president as he entered the room, remained in his seat.

Rather than roll out flashy policy proposals, the president wanted to provide a reassuring assessment of the state of the country, declaring that two years after the attack on the Capitol, American democracy was “unbowed and unbroken.”

“America’s story is a story of progress and resilience,” he said, highlighting record job creation during his tenure as the country emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden also pointed to areas where both sides made progress in his first two years in office, including in states’ vital infrastructure and high-tech manufacturing. And he said, “There’s no reason why we couldn’t work together in this new Congress.”

“The people sent us a clear message. Fight for the fight, power for power, conflict for the conflict, that will get us nowhere,” Biden said. “And that has always been my vision for the country: to restore the soul of the nation, the backbone of America – the middle class – rebuild to unite the country.”

“We were sent here to get the job done!”

According to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, the president took the House stage at a time when only a quarter of American adults say things are moving in the right direction in the country. About three-quarters say things are going in the wrong direction. And a majority of Democrats do not want Biden to seek another term.

He tried to face those feelings head on.

“You wonder if there is still a path for you and your kids to move forward without leaving, I get that,” Biden said. “That is why we are building an economy in which no one is left behind. Jobs come back, pride comes back because of the choices we made over the past two years.”

Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who rose to national prominence as press secretary to former President Donald Trump, gave the Republican response to Biden’s speech.

She focused many of her comments on social issues, including race in business and education and alleged big-tech censorship from conservatives.

“As you reap the consequences of their failures, the Biden administration seems more interested in waking fantasies than the harsh realities Americans face every day,” she said. “Most Americans just want to live their lives in freedom and peace, but we are under attack in a leftist culture war that we didn’t start and never wanted to fight.”

With COVID-19 restrictions lifted, the White House and lawmakers from both parties invited guests intended to send political messages home with their presence in the House Chamber. The parents of Tire Nichols, who was severely beaten by police officers in Memphis and later died, are among those sitting next to first lady Jill Biden. Other Biden guests included the rock star/humanitarian Bono and the 26-year-old who disarmed a gunman during last month’s Monterey Park, California shooting.

Biden garnered double applause when he praised most law enforcement officers as “good, decent people,” but added that “when police officers or police departments violate public trust, we have to hold them accountable.”

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus invited relatives of those involved in police incidents as they sought to push for police reform action in the wake of Nichols’ death.

Biden called on the room to “get to the moment,” Biden added, “Let’s commit to living up to Tire’s mother’s words, something good must come out of this.”

Biden shifted his sights after spending the first two years pushing through major bills, such as the bipartisan infrastructure package, legislation to promote high-tech manufacturing, and climate action. Now that Republicans are in charge of the House, he’s turning his attention to implementing those massive bills and getting voters to praise him for the improvements.

Biden, not known for his eloquence, seemed relaxed and confident as he delivered his speech. He casually added remarks, feeding on the responses of Democratic lawmakers who often rose to thunderous ovations and playfully engaged with his Republican critics.

Addressing Republicans who voted against the big bipartisan infrastructure bill, Biden said he would still make sure their favorite projects received federal support. “I promised to be the president of all Americans,” he said. “We will finance these projects. And I’ll see you at the groundbreaking.”

The switch was largely forced. Eager to undo many of its accomplishments, the newly empowered GOP promises to continue a host of investigations, including investigating the recent discoveries of classified documents from his time as vice president in his home and former office.

While he promised two parties whenever possible, Biden also underlined the sharp tensions that exist between him and House Republicans: He discussed the GOP’s efforts to repeal the Democrats’ 2022 climate change and health care bill and their reluctance to raise the federal debt limit, the country’s legal borrowing authority. which must be raised later this year or you risk defaulting.

“Instead of letting the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to disappear every five years,” Biden said. Other Republicans say that if we don’t cut Social Security and health care, they will default America for the first time in our history.

“I’m not letting that happen.”

Biden’s comments about entitlement programs sparked an outcry from Republicans, when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and others jumped to their feet, some yelling “Liar!”

The president replied back: “Stand up and show them: we will not cut Social Security! We will not cut Medicare!

As Republicans continued to protest his accusations, he said, “We have unanimity.”

While hopes of large-scale bipartisanship are slim, Biden reiterated his 2022 call to Congress to get behind his “unified agenda” of actions to address the opioid epidemic, mental health, veterans’ health and cancer. He announced new executive action and called on lawmakers to support new measures to support cancer research, address housing needs and suicide among veterans, improve access to mental health care and take steps to further tackle the deadly fentanyl trade .

In fiery choruses, Biden uttered the phrase “finish the job” 13 times, challenging lawmakers to complete his administration’s work to limit insulin costs for all Americans, address climate change, raise taxes for the wealthy and companies and ban assault weapons. . But on all those fronts, the divided government is even less likely to budge than the congress under democratic control alone.

The speech came days after Biden ordered the military to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew brazenly across the country, thrilling the country and serving as a reminder of tense relations between the two world powers.

“Make no mistake: As we made clear last week, we will act to protect our country if China threatens our sovereignty,” Biden said. “And we did.”

Last year’s speech came just days after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and many in the West questioned Kiev’s ability to withstand the onslaught. Over the past year, the US and other allies have sent tens of billions of dollars in military and economic aid to bolster Ukraine’s defenses. Now Biden must advocate — both at home and abroad — to support that coalition as the war continues.

Biden said the invasion was “a test for the ages.” A test for America. A test for the world.”

“Together we have done what America always does our best,” Biden said. “We led. We united NATO and built a global coalition. We oppose Putin’s aggression. We stood with the Ukrainian people.”

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