Biden Touts ‘Progress’ and ‘Resilience,’ Asks GOP to Help ‘Finish the Job’
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden struck an optimistic tone in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, describing the story of America as one of “progress and resilience” while exhorting congressional Republicans to help him “finish the job” of fostering the nation’s recovery from the pandemic.
“We are the only country that has emerged from every crisis stronger than when we entered it,” he said in an excerpt distributed by the White House several hours before the speech was delivered. “That is what we are doing again.”
Two years ago, Biden noted, the economy was reeling.
“As I stand here tonight, we have created a record 12 million new jobs — more jobs created in two years than any president has ever created in four years. Two years ago, COVID had shut down our businesses, closed our schools, and robbed us of so much. Today, COVID no longer controls our lives. And two years ago, our democracy faced its greatest threat since the Civil War. Today, though bruised, our democracy remains unbowed and unbroken.”
Biden delivered his 73-minute speech for the first time before a divided government, and among the noticeable differences between this year’s State of the Union and last year’s was newly elected Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., seated behind the president.
McCarthy largely refrained from smiling during the president’s remarks, and a number of Republican lawmakers shouted criticisms of the administration.
Undeterred, Biden responded by saying, “if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together in this new Congress.”
He went on to say “the people” sent Washington a clear message with the results of the midterm election.
“Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict, gets us nowhere,” he said. “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,” he added.
Biden also sought to convince the American people that he’s delivered the results they expected of him when he was elected. This, in the face of recent polls that suggest he’s facing some headwinds as he continues to plan for his reelection in 2024.
A poll released by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs on Monday showed that just 37% of Democrats say they want Biden to seek a second term, down from 52% in the weeks before last year’s midterm elections.
At the same time, the poll found that 41% approve of how Biden is handling his job as president, similar to ratings at the end of last year.
While a majority of Democrats still approve of the job Biden is doing as president, their appetite for a reelection campaign has slipped despite his electoral track record, the AP said.
Only 22% of U.S. adults overall say he should run again, down from 29% who said so before last year’s midterm elections.
The decline among Democrats saying Biden should run again for president appears concentrated among younger people.
On Tuesday night, the president highlighted his record of job creation and pointed to several areas of bipartisan progress during his first two years in office, particularly in regard to infrastructure and high-tech manufacturing.
“My economic plan is about investing in places and people that have been forgotten,” Biden said.
“Amid the economic upheaval of the past four decades too many people have been left behind or treated like they’re invisible. Maybe that’s you watching at home,” he continued. “You remember the jobs that went away. And you wonder whether a path even exists anymore for you and your children to get ahead without moving away. I get it. That’s why we’re building an economy where no one is left behind.
“Jobs are coming back, pride is coming back because of the choices we made in the last two years. This is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America and make a real difference in your lives,” he said.
The SOTU address fulfills the requirement in Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution for the president to periodically “give to the Congress information of the state of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
Initially, and for decades after, presidents submitted only a written report to Congress. It was Woodrow Wilson, in 1913, who began the regular practice of delivering the address in person, though Herbert Hoover, a lone exception in modern history, continued to deliver his in writing.
It was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who first called “the President’s Annual Message to Congress” the “State of the Union” and the name eventually stuck.
Since 1966, the speech has been followed on television by a response — typically a rebuttal — from the party that doesn’t hold the presidency.
On Tuesday night the response was delivered by Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
During her remarks she accused the Biden administration of being more interested “in woke fantasies than the hard reality Americans face every day.”
“The choice is between normal and crazy,” she said.
Biden completed his remarks at 10:21 p.m. and arrived back at the White House at 11:18 p.m., where staffers applauded him as he walked back into the building.
On Wednesday, Biden will travel to DeForest, Wisconsin, just outside of Madison, to discuss how his economic plan has ushered in a manufacturing boom and created good-paying jobs, including union jobs and jobs that don’t require a four-year degree, across Wisconsin and the country.
The trip is part of a two-day, 20-state blitz by the president and members of his cabinet, to highlight the economic progress in his first two years in office.
While in Wisconsin, Biden will meet with workers and apprentices, many of whom are training to do the jobs being created as a result of the president’s American Rescue Plan, bipartisan infrastructure law, CHIPS and Science Act and Inflation Reduction Act.