August 10, 2022

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Blue and yellow: Ukraine unity colours State of the Union

WASHINGTON (AP) — The blue and yellow introduced the room collectively.

Some lawmakers wore blue and yellow outfits. Different pinned blue and yellow ribbons to their lapels. When the flags of Ukraine have been handed out to lawmakers, some tucked them into their swimsuit coats like pocket squares.

For a nation bitterly divided at house, the battle for Ukraine’s survival towards the Russian invasion was pulling the U.S. Congress collectively.

As President Joe Biden delivered his first State of the Union deal with, it was the primary time all members of Congress have been invited to the Home chamber for the reason that COVID-19 outbreak and the Jan. 6, 2021, riot by a mob of the previous president’s supporters largely closed the Capitol to the general public.

Partisan tensions stay excessive. Political variations runs deep. However by means of a lot of Biden’s deal with, there was a exceptional dedication from Democrats and Republicans to muster a present of U.S. help for the Western-style democracy.

“My fellow Individuals, final yr COVID-19 saved us aside. This yr we’re lastly collectively once more,” Biden stated, as he opened his deal with.

“Tonight we meet as Democrats, Republicans, independents, however most significantly, as Individuals, with the responsibility to 1 one other, to America, to the American individuals, to the Structure and an unwavering resolve that freedom will all the time overcome tyranny.”

Ukraine’s ambassador to the US, Oksana Markarova, was welcomed with a standing ovation when the president launched her, and she or he waved her nation’s flag from the guests gallery. She was hugged by first girl Jill Biden, who invited her to the president’s night speech.

The occasion, often held in January, offers the president a possibility to stipulate his agenda for the yr forward. Certainly, the Structure requires the president “infrequently” to provide Congress data on the state of the Union.

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For Biden, this primary State of the Union speech arrived amid the backdrop of a struggle, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and a variety of legislative defeats for the Democratic president and his allies on Capitol Hill.

Indicators of partisan tensions flared as quickly as Biden touted his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid bundle, which not a single Republican supported as Democrats handed it by means of Congress final yr.

“It labored,” Biden stated loudly, as Republicans murmured boos and Democrats jumped to their ft to applaud — Senate Majority Chief Chuck Schumer eagerly leaping twice to clap approval.

In some of the dramatic outbursts of the night, Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado blamed Biden for the deaths of 13 service members killed within the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“You set them in — 13 of them,” Boebert yelled. On the time, Biden was speaking concerning the demise of his son, Military Maj. Beau Biden, and laws to help veterans uncovered to poisonous fumes from navy burn pits used to eliminate waste and tools.

Whereas his administration’s response to Russian aggression in Europe has been met with uncommon and memorable bipartisan help — Home Republican chief Kevin McCarthy tucked one of many flags in his swimsuit jacket — the division between the 2 events in Congress is palpable, even amongst factions of Democrats.

One Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who nearly singularly tanked Biden’s “Construct Again Higher” home agenda of social spending and local weather change applications, sat on the Republican facet of the aisle.

A number of Republican lawmakers skipped the speech altogether. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida stated he didn’t wish to have interaction within the “theater” of coronavirus protocols when all attendees have been required to have a COVID-19 check. A number of Democrats examined constructive and needed to keep house.

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Biden started his speech specializing in the disaster in Ukraine, a second of frequent floor that drew a variety of standing ovations from Republicans.

Because the night moved from international to home coverage, the partisan divide deepened — Democrats cheering Biden’s lengthy checklist of legislative priorities, from voting rights to free neighborhood school, whereas Republicans sat silently, some mouthing their displeasure.

And no applause was as loud or in unison as when the president stated: “The reply is to not defund the police,” when speaking about his plans to deal with gun violence and police brutality. One Republican, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, stood along with her social gathering and yelled, “Sure!”

Biden thanked retiring Supreme Courtroom Justice Stephen Breyer — he put his hand on his coronary heart and acknowledged the applause — and urged affirmation of his nominee, federal decide Ketanji Brown Jackson.

However as he charted the yr forward, even Biden’s suggestion they may come collectively on his “unity agenda” preventing opioid dependancy, boosting psychological well being, serving to veterans and ending most cancers could face problem within the harshly divided Congress.

“Sadly, the state of our union just isn’t good,” stated Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “President Biden just isn’t rising to the second.”

The viewers contained in the Home chamber was a lot bigger than the 200 allowed final yr as a result of pandemic restrictions however a lot smaller than the standard 1,600 that usually consists of particular visitors of lawmakers who this yr weren’t granted additional tickets. The primary girl’s different visitor was Frances Haugen, the previous Fb worker who uncovered what the corporate could have recognized about harm attributable to its social media platforms.

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The deal with adopted a way more restricted joint deal with Biden delivered final yr, shortly after his inauguration amid the fast-spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus and his predecessor Donald Trump’s second impeachment over the Capitol riot.

This yr, Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi welcomed each member of Congress to attend, however with some COVID-19 restrictions in place. Within the final week, the masks mandate was dropped because the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention introduced new pointers.

For some, together with Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif., it was their first time sitting within the Home customer galleries since they sheltered there through the Jan. 6, 2021, siege, when Trump supporters attacked the Capitol making an attempt to cease Congress from certifying Biden’s election.

However Biden additionally had conflicts to type by means of inside his personal social gathering. Progressive Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., delivered the Working Households Celebration response, by which she referred to as out Biden and Senate Democrats for not passing his $1.8 trillion social spending plan final yr.

The speech by one Democrat to a Democratic president’s deal with was the most recent instance of the interior preventing amongst factions of the bulk social gathering, most not too long ago between centrists and progressives like Tlaib.

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Related Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick and Darlene Superville contributed to this report.