State of the Union: Biden touts achievements, but says ‘we’re just getting started’

U.S. President Joe Biden arrives to deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress as Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) applaud on February 7, 2023 in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.
U.S. President Joe Biden arrives to deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress as Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) applaud on February 7, 2023 in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Photo credit Jacquelyn Martin-Pool/Getty Images

President Joe Biden delivered his second State of the Union address on Tuesday to a full House chamber, touching on several topics while speaking before the divided Congress.

Opening his speech, President Biden offered several congratulations, including to the new Speaker of the House, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

“Speaker, I don’t want to ruin your reputation, but I look forward to working with you,” Biden joked. He also congratulated Minority Leader of the House Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

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The president touted several achievements made by his administration throughout the last year while calling for bipartisan legislation this coming year.

Biden mentioned several pieces of legislation passed throughout the last year, including his infrastructure bill and a bill to provide aid for those who were victims of toxic burn pits. He also praised the work done by both parties, saying he’s signed nearly “300 bipartisan pieces of legislation.”

The president then acknowledged the challenges that the divided Congress will face throughout this next year, as the Republican-led House will have the power to pass or deny any legislation the president would like to get done. However, he said that together both parties could accomplish what needs to be done for the nation's best interest.

The president discussed the four-decade-high inflation plaguing the country, saying that while it’s not great, it has come down for six months straight. He continued, saying while food and gas prices are also coming down, it’s “not fast enough.”

On a stronger note, Bide praised the nation’s job growth and the 10 million Americans who started new businesses last year, which he says is a new record.

“12 million new jobs. More jobs created in two years than any president has created in four years,” Biden said.

Talking about last year’s infrastructure package, Biden noted that the country has fallen to 13th in the world in infrastructure and that improvements would be made through the legislation.

He mentioned his plans to bring manufacturing back to America, announcing during the speech that going forward, all construction materials used in federal construction projects must be made in America.

“Lumber, glass, drywall, fiber optic cable. And on my watch, American roads, bridges, and American highways are going to be made with American products as well,” Biden said, adding that “we’re just getting started.”

Other topics Biden discussed included his efforts to take on big pharma; climate change; the oil industry; service fees from airlines, ticket providers, and more; paid family leave and sick leave; and the tax system, which he called “not fair.”

“No billionaire should be paying less [taxes] than a school teacher or firefighter,” Biden said, adding that he wants to quadruple the taxes for corporations partaking in stock buybacks.

Discussion around the upcoming debt ceiling caused a stir among the members of Congress as Biden said that the debt ceiling was raised for his predecessor without question whenever it was needed.

“So, tonight, I’m asking this Congress to follow suit. Let's commit here tonight that the full faith and credit of the United States of America will never, ever be questioned,” Biden said.

Biden alluded to a proposal he received from a member of the GOP that would look to “sunset” Social Security and Medicare, which caused an uproar from Republicans yelling at the president.

“I’m not going to allow them to be taken away. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever,” Biden said.

Finally agreeing, Biden said that everyone agrees to take care of the nation’s seniors, causing thunderous applause from both parties.

“So folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security, Medicare is off the books now, right?... Alright. We got unanimity,” Biden ad-libbed.

Moving into economic plans, Biden said “Let’s discuss our plans together,” resulting in another standing ovation from both parties.

The president took time to acknowledge the Americans who lost their lives to COVID-19 as the end of the public health emergency nears.

“We will remember the toll and pain that's never going to go away. More than 1 million Americans lost their lives to COVID,” Biden said. “Families grieving, children orphaned. Empty chairs at the dining room table constantly reminding you that she used to sit there.”

He then called on action from Congress, saying that prosecuting those who stole COVID relief funds needs to remain a priority.

The parents of Tyre Nichols, a man who was brutally beaten to death by Memphis police officers last month, were present during the speech and received a standing ovation from all present in the chamber.

Getting choked up, Biden talked about the fear Black Americans have when encountering the police. He said that the issue affects both sides, as public safety means having those who deserve to wear the badge do.

“It’s up to us, all of us,” Biden said.

Biden continued, talking about the officers that have earned their community's respect, saying that public safety is the primary goal, asking for Congress members to “come together to finish the job on police reform.”

With the members of the Supreme Court sitting in the front row, Biden said that any laws looking to ban abortion federally would be vetoed if they found their way to his desk.

“Congress must restore the right that was taken away in Roe v. Wade and protect Roe v. Wade,” Biden said.

Among other policies Biden touched on includes an effort to end cancer as we know it; support for America’s veterans and ending veteran suicides; tackling the mental health crisis; and addressing the opioid and overdose epidemic.

Behind Biden for the first time was Speaker McCarthy, who was in the seat sat in by former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for two decades.

Biden, who is struggling in polls, has faced several unique challenges throughout his time in office, including a 40-year high inflation rate, the pandemic, war in Ukraine, a crisis at the US-Mexico border, and more.

While the president has previously shared his intention to run for re-election, he did not officially confirm the decision during his speech. However, recent polls have shown that not only Republicans but also Democrats would prefer someone else to receive the nomination come 2024.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that among Democrats and independents that lean left, 58% said they would prefer someone other than Biden in the next election.

This comes as 45% of Americans “disapprove strongly” or “disapprove somewhat” of the job Biden is doing in office, according to the poll.

When Biden finished his speech, the House chamber was filled with thunderous applause from the members of Congress. As he shared what he believes the state of the union to be.

“Because the soul of this nation is strong. Because the backbone is strong. Because the people of this union are strong. The State of the Union is strong,” the president said.

In closing, Biden made one final call for Congress to work together.

“We’re the United States of America, and there’s nothing, nothing beyond our capacity if we do it together," Biden said. "God bless you all and may God bless our troops.”

Featured Image Photo Credit: Jacquelyn Martin-Pool/Getty Images