August 20, 2022

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State of the Union: Biden vows to halt Russia, hit inflation

By ZEKE MILLER and COLLEEN LONG

WASHINGTON (AP) — Addressing a involved nation and anxious world, President Joe Biden vowed in his first State of the Union tackle Tuesday evening to verify Russian aggression in Ukraine, tame hovering U.S. inflation and cope with the fading however nonetheless harmful coronavirus.

Biden declared that he and all members of Congress, no matter their political variations, are joined “with an unwavering resolve that freedom will at all times conquer tyranny.” He requested lawmakers crowding the Home chamber to face and salute the Ukrainians as he started his speech. They stood and cheered.

It was a notable present of unity after a protracted yr of bitter acrimony between Biden’s Democratic coalition and the Republican opposition.

Biden’s 62-minute speech, which was break up between consideration to struggle overseas and worries at house — mirrored the identical balancing act he now faces in his presidency. He should marshal allied resolve in opposition to Russia’s aggression whereas tending to inflation, COVID-19 fatigue and sagging approval rankings heading into the midterm elections.

Biden highlighted the bravery of Ukrainian defenders and a newly reinvigorated Western alliance that has labored to rearm the Ukrainian army and cripple Russia’s financial system by means of sanctions. He acknowledged prices to the American financial system, as effectively, however warned ominously that with out penalties, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression wouldn’t be contained to Ukraine.

“All through our historical past we’ve discovered this lesson – when dictators don’t pay a value for his or her aggression, they trigger extra chaos,” Biden stated. “They preserve shifting. And, the prices and threats to America and the world preserve rising.”

As Biden spoke, Russian forces have been escalating their assaults in Ukraine, having bombarded the central sq. of nation’s second-biggest metropolis and Kyiv’s essential TV tower, killing no less than 5 folks. The Babi Yar Holocaust memorial was additionally broken.

Biden introduced that the U.S. is following Canada and the European Union in banning Russian planes from its airspace in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine. He additionally stated the Justice Division was launching a job pressure to go after Russian oligarchs, whom he referred to as “corrupt leaders who’ve bilked billions of {dollars} off this violent regime.”

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“We’re coming in your ill-begotten positive aspects,” he stated, pledging that the U.S. and European allies have been after their yachts, luxurious flats and personal jets.

Biden pivoted in his speech from the troubles overseas to these at house. Even earlier than the Russian invasion despatched power prices skyrocketing, costs for American households had been rising, and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to harm households and the nation’s financial system.

Biden outlined plans to deal with inflation by reinvesting in American manufacturing capability, rushing provide chains and decreasing the burden of childcare and eldercare on staff.

“Too many households are struggling to maintain up with the payments,” Biden stated. “Inflation is robbing them of the positive aspects they may in any other case really feel. I get it. That’s why my prime precedence is getting costs below management.”

In a single signal of nationwide progress on the pandemic, Biden entered the Home chamber with out a masks, as coronavirus circumstances decline and new federal steerage tries to nudge the general public again to pre-pandemic actions. However there was proof of ongoing rigidity as effectively: The Capitol was newly fenced as a result of safety considerations after final yr’s riot.

Set in opposition to disquiet at house and hazard overseas, the White Home had conceived Tuesday evening’s speech as a chance to focus on the enhancing coronavirus outlook, rebrand Biden’s home coverage priorities and present a path to decrease prices for households grappling with hovering inflation. However occasions took a flip towards world affairs with final week’s Russian invasion of Ukraine and nuclear saber-rattling by Putin.

As is customary, one Cupboard secretary, on this case Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, was stored in a safe location throughout the tackle, able to take over the federal government within the occasion of a disaster.

The State of the Union is often an tackle focused to a nationwide viewers, however this yr’s had the world watching. In an interview with CNN and Reuters, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Biden to ship a powerful and “helpful” message about Russia’s invasion. In a present of unity, Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova joined first girl Jill Biden within the Home gallery for the speech.

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In a uncommon discordant second, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado yelled out that Biden was in charge for the 13 service members who have been killed throughout final August’s chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“You place them in. 13 of them,” Boebert yelled as Biden talked about his late son Beau, a veteran who died from mind most cancers and served close to poisonous army burn pits, used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan. Biden is pursuing laws to assist veterans struggling publicity and different accidents.

Whereas the disaster in Japanese Europe could have helped to chill partisan tensions in Washington, it didn’t erase the political and cultural discord that’s casting doubt on Biden’s capability to ship.

A February AP-NORC ballot discovered that extra folks disapproved than authorized of how Biden is dealing with his job, 55% to 44%. That’s down from a 60% favorable ranking final July.

Biden, used his remarks to focus on the progress from a yr in the past — with the vast majority of the U.S. inhabitants now vaccinated and hundreds of thousands extra folks at work — but additionally acknowledged that the job just isn’t but finished, a recognition of American discontent.

“I’ve come to report on the state of the union,” Biden stated. “And my report is that this: The state of the union is robust—since you, the American folks, are robust. We’re stronger at this time than we have been a yr in the past. And we might be stronger a yr from now than we’re at this time.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, chosen to offer the Republican response, stated Biden’s tackle got here as a blast from the previous with rising inflation, rising crime and a resurgent Russia making it really feel extra just like the Eighties than at this time.

“Even earlier than taking the oath of workplace, the president stated that he needed to – quote – make America revered world wide once more, and to unite us right here. He’s failed on each fronts,” she stated.

Biden used his speech to nudge the nation again “to extra regular routines” after the coronavirus reshaped American life.

“It’s time for Individuals to get again to work and fill our nice downtowns once more,” he declared. He stated folks will be capable to order one other spherical of free assessments from the federal government and that his administration was launching a “check to deal with” initiative to supply free antiviral drugs at pharmacies to those that check optimistic for the virus.

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The place his speech to Congress final yr noticed the rollout of an enormous social spending bundle, Biden this yr largely repackaged previous proposals looking for achievable measures he hopes can win bipartisan assist in a bitterly divided Congress earlier than the elections.

The president additionally highlighted investments in all the things from web broadband entry to bridge building from November’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure regulation for example of presidency reaching consensus and delivering change for the nation.

As a part of his pitch to voters, he additionally put a brand new emphasis on how proposals like extending the kid tax credit score and bringing down youngster care prices may carry aid to households as costs rise. He was stated his local weather change proposals would minimize prices for lower- and middle-income households and create new jobs.

Biden referred to as for reducing well being care prices, pitching his plan to authorize Medicare to barter prescription drug costs, in addition to an extension of extra beneficiant medical insurance subsidies now briefly accessible by means of the Inexpensive Care Act marketplaces the place 14.5 million folks get protection.

Biden additionally appealed for motion on voting rights, which has didn’t win GOP assist. And as gun violence rises, he returned to calls to ban assault weapons, a blunt request he hadn’t made in months. He referred to as to “fund the police with the sources and coaching they should defend our communities.”

He led Congress in a bipartisan tribute to retiring Supreme Court docket Justice Stephen Breyer and highlighted the biography of federal decide Ketanji Brown Jackson, his nominee be the primary Black lady on the excessive court docket.

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Related Press writers Darlene Superville, Fatima Hussein, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Lisa Mascaro in Washington and Jason Dearen in New York contributed to this report.