5 key takeaways from Biden’s 1st State of the Union

President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address on Tuesday night was very different from what it would have been a few weeks ago – before Russia invaded Ukraine, inflation continued to rise. increase and coronavirus guidelines have changed dramatically.

From war in Ukraine to rising prices in the country, here’s a look at the key takeaways from Biden’s first State of the Union address to Congress.

Calling Putin by name

The President began his speech with strong words of support for the Ukrainian people and their President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“From President Zelenskyy to every Ukrainian,” he said, “their fearlessness, their courage, their determination literally inspires the world.

The president hailed his strategy of standing with Europe and NATO allies to impose tough sanctions on Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, saying they had cemented the alliance of the NATO and that the Russian president was now “more isolated from the world than he has ever been”. summer.”

“Putin’s latest attack on Ukraine was premeditated and totally unprovoked,” Biden said. “He rejected repeated efforts at diplomacy. He thought the West and NATO would not respond. He thought he could divide us at home, in this room, in this nation. He thought he could also divide us in Europe. But Putin was wrong. We are ready.

The president also announced that the United States would bar Russian airlines from accessing American airspace, after Europe and Canada took similar action on Sunday.

“When dictators don’t pay the price for their aggression, they cause more chaos,” Biden said.

First Lady Jill Biden welcomed Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, as a guest in her dressing room. She received a standing ovation from Democrats and Republicans, many of whom wore the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag.

The president devoted about a fifth of his speech to Ukraine – and received rare bipartisan applause for much of what he said – a significant part of a speech typically focused on partisan domestic issues.

Focus on fighting inflation

With low approval ratings for his handling of the economy — and inflation top of mind for Americans — Biden proclaimed, “I get it.”

“Too many families are struggling to pay their bills,” he said. “Inflation robs them of gains they otherwise thought they could feel.”

He said his “first priority is to get the prices under control”.

But many of his proposals will rely on a Congress that has been reluctant to pass much of his social spending proposals.

Underscoring the need to boost domestic manufacturing, Biden also called for some specific elements that would have been part of his stalled “Build Back Better” plan: reducing the cost of prescription drugs, tackling climate change to reduce energy costs , reducing the cost of child care and instituting free and universal preschool, among other initiatives.

He touted the country’s economic recovery, but acknowledged that factories had closed, supply chains had been disrupted and prices had risen.

Biden said his “plan to fight inflation” was: “Cut your costs, not your wages.”

A new phase in the coronavirus pandemic

Biden acknowledged that Americans were “tired, frustrated and exhausted” by the coronavirus pandemic – but also signaled that the United States was entering a new phase.

“We have reached a new moment in the fight against COVID-19, where severe cases have fallen to a level not seen since July last year,” he said.

He announced that his administration was launching a “test to treat” program where Americans who tested positive for COVID at pharmacies could then receive free antiviral pills to treat the virus.

The president also said Americans could order even more free rapid tests from COVIDTests.gov starting next week.

He warned that the United States must “prepare for new variants” – and noted that scientists could “deploy new vaccines within 100 days” if necessary.

“Thanks to the progress we’ve made over the past year, COVID-19 no longer needs to control our lives,” Biden said.

“Last year, COVID-19 separated us. This year, we are finally together again.”

Transformed bedroom

Few masks have made appearances in the chamber of the House of Representatives where Biden spoke.

Under new protocols announced Sunday, attendees did not have to wear face coverings. Biden didn’t put one on like he did last year; attendance was also much more restricted in 2021.

The president rubbed shoulders with members of Congress at close range in a scene reminiscent of pre-pandemic State of the Union events.

All attendees had to show a negative PCR coronavirus test to be admitted, and several Republicans boycotted the speech by refusing to test.

But testing has found at least four positive cases among lawmakers.

“A program of unity for the nation”

Biden has made the quest for bipartisanship a hallmark of his presidency, and during his speech he offered what he called “a unity agenda for the nation.”

In addition to listing a variety of proposals that would have been part of a larger “Build Back Better” bill that passed the House but stalled in the Senate due to opposition from Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin , DW.Va, he called for legislation. to invest in cancer research, support veterans, fight domestic violence and more.

“We can do these things,” Biden said. “It’s in our power.”

ABC News

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