Addressing a concerned nation and anxious world, President Joe Biden vowed in his first State of the Union address Tuesday night to check Russian aggression in Ukraine, tame soaring U.S. inflation and deal with the fading but still dangerous coronavirus.
Biden declared that he and all members of Congress, whatever their political differences, are joined “with an unwavering resolve that freedom will always triumph over tyranny.” He asked lawmakers crowding the House chamber to stand and salute the Ukrainians as he began his speech. They stood and cheered.
It was a notable show of unity after a long year of bitter acrimony between Biden’s Democratic coalition and the Republican opposition.
Biden’s 62-minute speech, which was split between attention to war abroad and worries at home — reflected the same balancing act he now faces in his presidency. He must marshal allied resolve against Russia’s aggression while tending to inflation, COVID-19 fatigue and sagging approval ratings heading into the midterm elections.
will head to Wisconsin on Wednesday in an effort to show Americans that his domestic agenda is working. His vice president and Cabinet members will fan out around the country to amplify the message.
Biden heads again to an old bridge set to be repaired — increasingly a symbol for his administration, tangible evidence of the nation that he’s working to update. This time, it’s a wrought-iron bridge that connects Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin, across the St. Louis Bay.
The bridge will be replaced using funds from the massive infrastructure plan signed into law last year, a signature piece of bipartisan legislation and proof — Biden says — that the GOP and Democrats can still work together.
In Tuesday’s speech, Biden highlighted the bravery of Ukrainian defenders and a newly reinvigorated Western alliance that has worked to rearm the Ukrainian military and cripple Russia’s economy through sanctions. He acknowledged costs to the American economy, as well, but warned ominously that without consequences, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression wouldn’t be contained to Ukraine.
“Throughout our history we’ve learned this lesson – when dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos,” Biden said. “They keep moving. And the costs and threats to America and the world keep rising.”
As Biden spoke, Russian forces were escalating their attacks in Ukraine, having bombarded the central square of country’s second-biggest city and Kyiv’s main TV tower, killing at least five people. The Babi Yar Holocaust memorial was also damaged.
Biden announced that the U.S. is following Canada and the European Union in banning Russian planes from its airspace in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine. He also said the Justice Department was launching a task force to go after Russian oligarchs, whom he called “corrupt leaders who have bilked billions of dollars off this violent regime.”
“We are coming for your ill-begotten gains,” he said, pledging that the U.S. and European allies were after their yachts, luxury apartments and private jets.
Biden pivoted in his speech from the troubles abroad to those at home. Even before the Russian invasion sent energy costs skyrocketing, prices for American families had been rising, and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hurt families and the country’s economy.
Biden outlined plans to address inflation by reinvesting in American manufacturing capacity, speeding supply chains and reducing the burden of childcare and eldercare on workers.
“Too many families are struggling to keep up with the bills,” Biden said. “Inflation is robbing them of the gains they might otherwise feel. I get it. That’s why my top priority is getting prices under control.”
By ZEKE MILLER and COLLEEN LONG | ASSOCIATED PRESS