In the midst of shouting from several Republican members of Congress, President Joe Biden delivered his second State of the Union Address Tuesday night. He described an American future in which bipartisan collaboration resolves the decline of the economy and decried high costs of health care, grief at the hands of gun violence and immigration shortcomings.
“The people sent us a clear message,” the president said during his first address to Congress since Republicans took over the U.S. House of Representatives. “Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict, gets us nowhere.”
Biden’s speech was not only a statement of his optimism for the country’s unity but also a reminder of what the White House says he has achieved. Many interpret it as a signal for a soon-to-come announcement of his re-election campaign.
Some of the President’s remarks prompted hollering from GOP lawmakers — the most raucous eruption came after Biden said that some Republicans want to limit Medicare and Social Security. He then said that “clearly” there was bipartisan agreement of “not touching” those two programs. He added that any skeptics are welcome to come to the White House to see the Republican proposal to sunset those key social programs — a proposal actually circulated during last year’s midterm elections by Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott. Biden leaned into the uproar at times and was able to redirect focus to the issues facing the nation.
“He did a good job with all the challenges that he’s faced,” said Carlos Rovelo, professor of political science at Dallas College in Texas. “He showed that he has command. He was funny He addressed every point that the American public is concerned about.”
Biden dedicated a good portion of his speech to the country’s economic state. He laid out his desire to reel back jobs to domestic shores, invest in infrastructure projects and progressively move towards clean energy production. He also highlighted his administration’s strides: lower gas prices, record-low unemployment rates and 10 million applications to start small businesses in the last two years.
Additionally, Biden reiterated a Democratic Party call to make prescription medication financially accessible to all. The Inflation Reduction Act he signed in 2022 requires the federal government to negotiate prices for prescription drugs under Medicare, bring down health insurance premiums based on a state’s market and place a cap on prescribed medication paid out-of-pocket. Biden and other Democrats have been pushing for expanded price negotiation on all prescriptions, not just for Medicare recipients.
“We capped the cost of insulin at $35 a month for seniors on Medicare,” said Biden before advocating to extend the policy for everyone needing it. “Let’s finish the job this time.”
Among the guests attending the State of the Union address were the parents of Tyre Nichols, the young Black man from Memphis who recently lost his life after a brutal beating by several Memphis police officers. Biden described a conversation he had with Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, in which she told him, “Something good will come from this.”
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and other Democrats wore black pins with the year “1870” on them in reference to the first reported case of an unarmed Black man killed by police.
Biden also mentioned another SOTU guest, Brandon Tsay, the 26-year-old who disarmed a Monterey Park, California shooter who killed 11 people. Biden, who was in the Senate when the last assault weapons ban was enacted, said to loud applause from fellow Democrats that assault weapons should be dispatched “once and for all.”
Immigration policies tend to spark division among party lines but Biden said he wants both sides of the aisle to come together and “make it a bipartisan issue like it was before.” The president wants to both regulate the flow of migrants at the southern border and make a pathway to citizenship for some groups, including DACA recipients, better known as DREAMers – some 800,000 undocumented minors protected from deportation with a temporary work or education status. Approximately 25,000 DREAMers live in Florida.
This week, the president and staff will be traveling to 20 states to hold events that underline his goals and message. On Thursday he will be in Florida to talk about Social Security and Medicare. Close to five million Floridians – about 22 percent of the state population – receive Social Security benefits; about the same number are Medicare beneficiaries.
Claudia Morales worked on the video story. Natalie La Roche authored the article.