President Joe Biden delivered his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday (February 7) night. It was the first time Biden addressed a divided Congress after the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in the 2022 midterm elections.
Biden tried to strike a bipartisan tone as he laid what the White House called his Unity Agenda.
"To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can't work together in this new Congress. The people sent us a clear message. 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. We've been sent here to finish the job," Biden said.
"In fact, I signed over 300 bipartisan pieces of legislation since becoming president," he added." To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can't work together and find consensus on important things in this Congress, as well."
As part of his economic agenda to create more jobs and strengthen American manufacturing, Biden announced a new standard that would require all construction material used in federal infrastructure projects to be made in the United States.
"You remember the jobs that went away. You remember them, don't you? The folks at home remember them. You wonder whether a path even exists anymore for your children to get ahead without moving away. I get that. That's why we're building an economy where no one's left behind," he said. "Job's a coming back. Pride is coming back because choices we made in the last several years."
President Biden then called on Congress to raise the debt ceiling without any strings. His comments were met by loud jeers from the Republicans in attendance.
"Nearly 25% of the entire national debt that took 200 years to accumulate was added by just one administration alone," Biden said. "How did Congress respond to all that debt? They lifted the debt ceiling three times without preconditions or crisis."
"Tonight, I'm asking Congress to follow suit. Let's commit here tonight to the full faith and credit of the United States of America will never, ever be questioned," he added.
Biden said he would be rolling out a plan to reduce the federal deficit by $2 trillion without cutting Social Security or Medicare. He said that his plan would not raise taxes on people making less than $400,000 a year.
"And I will pay for the ideas I've talked about tonight by making the wealthy and big corporations begin to pay their fair share," he said.
President Biden then transitioned to addressing police misconduct and gun violence by introducing Row Vaughn and Rodney Wells, the mother, and stepfather of Tyre Nichols, who died after being brutally beaten by police officers in Memphis, Tennessee.
They received a standing ovation from the entire chamber.
Biden urged Congress to enact a police reform bill, such as the George Floyd Justice in Policing, which Vaughn and Wells have been big proponents of.
"With faith in God, she said her son 'was a beautiful soul, and something good will come from this.' Imagine how much courage and character that takes. It's up to us, to all of us. We all want the same thing. Neighborhoods free of violence. Law enforcement who earn the community's trust. Just as every cop, when they pin on that badge in the morning, has a right to be able to go home at night, so does everybody else out there. Our children have a right to come home safely," Biden said.
He also introduced Brandon Tsay, the hero who disarmed the suspected shooter who killed 11 people at a dance studio in Monterey Park, California. Biden called on Congress to pass a ban on assault weapons.
"Ban assault weapons now. Ban them now once and for all," Biden told Congress. "I led the fight to do that in 1994. For ten years that ban was law, mass shootings went down. After we let it expire in a Republican administration, mass shootings tripled. Let's finish the job and ban these assault weapons," he added.
Biden also vowed to continue to support Ukraine as the country remains engaged in a war with Russia.
"Together, we did what America always does at our best," Biden said. "We led. We united NATO. We built a global coalition. We stood against Putin's aggression. We stood with the Ukrainian people. Tonight, we are once again joined by Ukraine's Ambassador to the United States. She represents not just her nation but the courage of her people."
President Biden briefly addressed China but did not make any mention of the spy balloon that was shot down last week.
"Today, we're in the strongest position in decades to compete with China or anyone else in the world," he said. "I am committed to work with China where we can advance American interests and benefit the world." He added, "But make no mistake about it. As we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country, and we did."
Biden wrapped up his speech by talking about the importance of protecting democracy.
"We must be the nation we have always been at our best. Optimistic. Hopeful. Forward-looking," Biden continued. "A nation that embraces, light over darkness, hope over fear, unity over division. Stability over chaos."
"We must see each other not as enemies, but as fellow Americans," he said, before adding that, "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."