In a State of the Union address that brought both houses of Congress back to Capitol Hill, President Biden underscored what unites the country while trying to reassure Americans worried about thethe crisis, inflation and gas prices that “everything will be fine”.
But it wasn’t all unity and bipartisan support: Mr Biden acknowledged that inflation is “robbing” Americans of economic gains. He also pushed his domestic policy agenda, saying Congress needed to pass key elements of his Build Back Better agenda. He didn’t use the words “Build Back Better” together, as the plan stalled in the Senate.
Mr Biden devoted the first part of his speech to showing his support for Ukraine and condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin. He noted the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, guest of the first lady, who received a standing ovation. Many members of Congress wore blue and yellow in support of Ukraine.
“Putin unleashed violence and chaos,” Mr Biden said. “But even if he can make gains on the battlefield, he will pay a high and continuous price in the long run.”
Mr Biden said the United States would join its European allies in closing airspace to Russian planes. Additionally, he announced that 30 million barrels of oil will be released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
“These measures will help bring down gas prices here at home. And I know the news about what’s happening may seem alarming, but I want you to know that everything will be fine,” he said. .
The full chamber – where members were not required to wear masks – stood in stark contrast to last year’s speech. But members of Congress still did not bring guests, and attendees were seated with space between them. Mr Biden kicked off the speech by saying: “Last yearseparated us. This year we are finally together again.”
Later in the speech, he said America had “reached a new moment in the fight against COVID-19, with severe cases at a level not seen since last July.” He announced that the United States would launch a “test to treat” plan and provide free antiviral pills in pharmacies to people who tested positive for COVID-19.
He announced a four-part “unity agenda for the nation”: defeating the opioid epidemic; tackling mental health; support veterans and end cancer. He also spoke about a cause that is very personal to him:which cause cancer in veterans, which he believes may have caused the fatal cancer of his son Beau.
In sticking to unity, Mr. Biden did not mention one of the issues that has widely divided Democrats and Republicans: theattack on the United States Capitol.
Afound that Mr. Biden’s approval rating remained at 44%, a one-point increase from last week but identical to his approval rating in CBS News’ January and November polls.
The president’s approval ratings began to plummet last summer during the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and fell even further ashas become a bigger problem.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds delivered the GOP response. Reynolds, who was one of the first governors to open schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, issued a stern message that will likely be repeated by Republicans throughout the 2022 midterms: “Republicans think parents matter”.
Read CBS News’ State of the Union fact check.