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Biden says the union is strong; urges Republicans to work with him to make it stronger

The president focused his second State of the Union address on boosting the middle class and compromising with his colleagues.

WASHINGTON (CN) — President Joe Biden touted a new chapter of prosperity in his State of the Union address Tuesday night after years of pandemic restrictions and resulting economic turmoil. 

Addressing a divided Congress for the first time, Biden extended an olive branch to his Republican colleagues, urging lawmakers to work together for all Americans. The president attempted to stay above the fray of political divisions between the two parties, looking for areas where both sides of the aisle could meet in the middle. 

“The people sent us a clear message,” Biden said. “Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict gets us nowhere. And that’s always been my vision for the country: to restore the soul of the nation, to rebuild the backbone of America: the middle class, to unite the country.” 

Biden said the country was moving past the darkness of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.  

“Two years ago, our democracy faced its greatest threat since the Civil War,” Biden said. “Today, though bruised, our democracy remains unbowed and unbroken. As we gather here tonight, we are writing the next chapter in the great American story, a story of progress and resilience. When world leaders ask me to define America, I define our country in one word: possibilities.” 

Much of Biden’s address focused on bipartisanship, noting lawmakers' accomplishments over the past two years and calling for a continuation of that work. 

“We’re often told that Democrats and Republicans can’t work together, but over these past two years we proved the cynics and the naysayers wrong,” Biden said. “Yes, we disagreed plenty. And yes, there were times when Democrats had to go it alone. But time and again, Democrats and Republicans came together.” 

Biden pointed to how lawmakers compromised to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and he said the law had already funded 20,000 projects that will put Americans to work rebuilding highways, bridges, railroads, and airports.

“I sincerely thank my Republican friends who voted for the law,” Biden said. “And to my Republican friends who voted against it but still ask to fund projects in their districts, don’t worry. I promised to be the president for all Americans. We’ll fund your projects. And I’ll see you at the ground-breaking. This law will help further unite all of America.” 

Biden aimed at connecting with everyday Americans who feel their concerns have been forgotten by politicians. One of these concerns Biden touchced upon was the cost of medical care. He noted his work to lower the costs of prescription drugs — notably insulin — and called for further efforts to cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month for every American who needs it. 

“Let’s finish the job this time,” Biden said. 

Biden alluded to some Republicans' threats to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act. He said if any bill came across his desk that would raise the cost of prescription drugs he would veto it. 

“As my old football coach used to say, good luck in your senior year,” Biden said of Republicans who want to repeal the law. 

Biden focused on uplifting the middle class while forcing the wealthy to pay a larger share of taxes. 

“No billionaire should pay a lower tax rate than a school teacher or a firefighter,” Biden said. 

He proposed a new bill called the Junk Fee Prevention Act that would ban resort fees at hotels, stop provider change fees, and cap service fees on tickets. 


“Americans are tired of being played for suckers,” Biden said. “Pass the Junk Fee Prevention Act so companies stop ripping us off.” 

Biden also called on Congress to pass the PRO Act — which would give workers the right to form a union — and to restore the full Child Tax Credit. 

The president called out big companies like oil corporations for reporting record profits yet failing to invest in domestic production to keep prices down. He noted how these same companies used their profits to buy back their own stocks and called for a quadruple tax on corporate stock buybacks. 

The ongoing debt limit fight resulted in rancor in the chamber when Biden accused some Republicans of threatening to cut Social Security and Medicare. 

“Some of my Republican friends want to take the economy hostage unless I agree to their economic plans,” Biden said. “All of you at home should know what their plans are. Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset every five years.” 

Some Republicans shouted and booed Biden during this part of his remarks, calling him a liar. Biden responded by concluding the parties were in agreement over not proposing those cuts. 

“If anyone tries to cut Social Security, I will stop them,” Biden said. “And if anyone tries to cut Medicare, I will stop them. I will not allow them to be taken away. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.” 

Biden touched on police violence targeted at Brown and Black Americans. The family of Tyre Nichols was in the audience for Biden’s address. 

“​​I know most cops are good decent people,” Biden said. “They risk their lives every time they put on that shield. But what happened to Tyre in Memphis happens too often. We have to do better. Give law enforcement the training they need, hold them to higher standards, and help them succeed in keeping everyone safe.” 

While advocating for more support for law enforcement, Biden also called for accountability. He noted his executive order banning chokeholds and restricting no-knock warrants. 

“Let’s come together and finish the job on police reform,” Biden said. “Do something.” 

Biden tied this call with action on gun violence. While he noted gun safety laws that had been passed, he said must more be done, calling for a ban on assault weapons. 

“Ban assault weapons once and for all,” Biden said “We did it before. I led the fight to ban them in 1994. In the 10 years the ban was law, mass shootings went down. After Republicans let it expire, mass shootings tripled. Let’s finish the job and ban assault weapons again.” 

Five of the nine Supreme Court justices were in attendance for Biden’s address. Biden chastised the court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade last term and said he would veto any attempt at a national abortion ban. He also called for bipartisan efforts to protect LGBTQ Americans and transgender youth. 

On the global front, Biden condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine and recommitted the United States’ support for the embattled country. Biden made a reference to a Chinese spy balloon that hovered over the country last week, saying the U.S. would defend itself, but also said he wanted competition with China, not conflict. 

Biden renewed the unity agenda announced in last year’s address. He called for mental health initiatives targeting Big Tech and teens’ use of social media. These mental health-realted initiatives would also target military and veteran suicide. Biden also called for efforts to end homelessness among veterans.

Addressing threats to American democracy, Biden noted the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband. 

“Just a few months ago, unhinged by the Big Lie, an assailant unleashed political violence in the home of the then-Speaker of this House of Representatives,” Biden said. “Using the very same language that insurrectionists who stalked these halls chanted on January 6th. Here tonight in this chamber is the man who bears the scars of that brutal attack, but is as tough and strong and as resilient as they get. My friend, Paul Pelosi.” 

Biden said Americans must speak out against political violence, protect the right to vote, and uphold the results of elections. 

“Democracy must not be a partisan issue,” Biden said. “It must be an American issue.” 

Despite the sharp divisions between the parties and obstacles plaguing the country over the last two years, Biden concluded that the state of our union is strong. 

“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,” Biden said. “As I stand here tonight, I have never been more optimistic about the future of America. We just have to remember who we are. We are the United States of America and there is nothing, nothing beyond our capacity if we do it together.” 

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