Five key takeaways from Joe Biden’s 2023 State of the Union report | News about Joe Biden

United States President Joe Biden delivered his annual State of the Union address, the second of his presidency, outlining his policy goals and talking about accomplishments as he considers a run for a second term.

But Tuesday’s speech was his first in front of a divided Congress, and he took jabs at the president during a sometimes rambunctious speech.

Facing a Democratic-led Senate and a now Republican-controlled House of Representatives, the 80-year-old president touted his economic record and victories on infrastructure spending, clean energy and prescription drug prices.

With State of the Union speeches drawing tens of millions of viewers each year, this year’s speech is arguably the biggest platform Biden has before potentially campaigning ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

Here are the five biggest takeaways from this year’s speech.

He warns China not to threaten US sovereignty

An alleged Chinese spy balloon flying over the US dominated headlines in the week before Biden’s speech, as relations between the two countries remain strained.

On Tuesday, the US president warned China not to threaten the US, reiterating the position that Washington is not seeking conflict with Beijing.

“As we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country — and we have,” he said, referring to actions taken to shoot down the balloons.

Biden continued his predecessor Donald Trump’s strategy of prioritizing competition with China in American foreign policy.

“Let’s be clear: winning a contest should unite us all,” Biden said Tuesday.

Call for cooperation to republican ‘friends’

The US president called on Republicans to work with him, condemning “fighting for the sake of fighting”.

“Republican friends, we could work together,” he said.

“We are often told that Democrats and Republicans cannot work together. But over the past two years, we’ve proven the cynics and skeptics wrong,” he said, pointing to bills passed with bipartisan support, including the Respect for Marriage Act.

But Biden also used the opportunity to press Republicans, calling for cooperation as talks on raising the debt ceiling remain stalled.

“Some of my Republican friends want to take the economy hostage. I understand. Unless I agree with their economic plans,” Biden said to boos in the hall. He later added, “I’m not saying most of you are. But individuals are suggesting that. I’m not naming them kindly.”

Under Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the House majority appears unlikely to advance many of the priorities outlined in Biden’s speech, including police reform and a “minimum tax for billionaires.”

President Joe Biden hands a copy of his speech to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Feb. 7 [Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via Reuters]

Centering economic results and infrastructural gains

Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, the U.S. economy — hobbled by inflation — has largely been seen as Democrats’ Achilles’ heel.

But Biden’s Democratic Party managed to silence the widely expected Republican “red wave”.

On Tuesday, the US president made his economic performance one of the focal points – if not the central message – of his speech, hailing low unemployment rates, infrastructure investment and what he described as the return of American manufacturing.

Biden said that after years of hemorrhaging factory jobs overseas, the US is on track to reverse manufacturing trends.

“Where does it say that America cannot lead the world in production? I don’t know where it says that. For too many decades we have been importing products and exporting jobs,” he told lawmakers.

“Now, thanks to what all of you have done, we’re exporting American products and creating American jobs.”

He also applauded the bipartisan bill of 2021 that provided $1.2 trillion to revitalize the nation’s infrastructure.

“We’ve fallen to 13th in the world — the United States, 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 biggest infrastructure investment since President Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System.”

Pressure on corporations to pay their ‘fair share’

Presenting an ambitious political goal to rebuild the US economy and combat the climate crisis, Biden said his agenda would be funded by “finally making the richest and biggest corporations start paying their fair share” in taxes.

“I’m a capitalist, but pay fair,” Biden said. “I think a lot of you back home agree with me … the tax system is not fair.”

He then highlighted his administration’s efforts to crack down on hidden costs that big companies charge consumers, known as junk fees.

“Big corporations don’t just take advantage of the tax code. They are taking advantage of you, the American consumer,” Biden said, adding: “Capitalism without competition is not capitalism. That is exploitation.”

Biden also called for capping the cost of insulin at $35 for all Americans, after a law went into effect capping costs for seniors on Medicare, a health program mostly for older Americans.

“Let’s get the job done this time. Let’s cap the price … for everyone at $35. Big Pharma will continue to do very well, I promise you,” he said.

Rodney Wells and RowVaughn Wells, stepfather and mother of Tire Nichols,
Rodney Wells and RowVaughn Wells, stepfather and mother of Tyre Nichols, attended Tuesday’s State of the Union [Leah Millis/Reuters]

Calling for police accountability and a ban on assault weapons

Saluting the parents of Tyre Nichols – a black man who died after being beaten by police in Memphis, Tennessee – Biden called for reforms in law enforcement.

“We have to do better,” Biden said. “Give the police the right training they need, hold them to a higher standard, help them keep 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: neighborhoods without violence. A law enforcement agency that deserves the trust of the community.”

His comments came amid Republican criticism that Democrats are being “soft on crime” as they pursue criminal justice reform.

But on Tuesday, Biden struck a balance between acknowledging the difficulties law enforcement officers face and the need to reduce police violence. He also called for greater community funding.

“We also need more first responders and professionals to address the growing challenges of mental health and substance abuse; more funding to reduce violent and gun crime; for community intervention programs; more investment in housing, education and job training,” he said.

He also strongly opposed the use of semi-automatic “assault weapons,” calling for the revival of a 1994 ban to address the ongoing spate of mass shootings in the US.

“Ban assault weapons immediately,” Biden said firmly. “Ban them now, once and for all.”

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