At the start, President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union message wasn’t just an address to the American people.
Mr. Biden asked those in the House Chamber to rise as he began his speech, a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people as Russia continues its invasion.
“Six days ago, Russia’s Vladimir Putin sought to shake the foundations of the free world thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways. But he badly miscalculated,” President Biden said. “He thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would rollover. Instead, he met a wall of strength he never imagined.”
President Biden vowed a strong response to the Russian president’s actions alongside members of NATO and the European Union through economic sanctions as well as the closing of American airspace to Russian flights.
Mr. Biden said the Department of Justice would assemble a task force to investigate alleged crimes of Russian oligarchs. He also promised more than $1 billion in aid to Ukraine.
“We are inflicting pain on Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine,” Mr. Biden said. “Putin is now isolated from the world more than ever.”
President Biden said American forces have been mobilized to defend NATO allies including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.
“Let me be clear, our forces are not engaged and will not engage in conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine,” Mr. Biden said.
As the president spoke, members of his Cabinet, lawmakers and other guests wore pinned blue and yellow ribbons and hoisted small Ukrainian flags in the House Chamber. Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova was recognized with an emotional standing ovation as a special guest of the president.
U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, who wore yellow and blue ribbons pinned to his navy suit Tuesday evening, said on social media he stood with President Biden in opposition to Mr. Putin.
“We will continue the economic sanctions that are crippling Russian oligarchs and pass additional aid to help Ukraine and our European partners,” Rep. Carbajal said.
Aside from foreign policy, Mr. Biden addressed inflation, rising gas prices and infrastructure issues during his State of the Union address.
Mr. Biden said the U.S. will release 30 million barrels of oil from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve and is working with other countries to release more around the world. This effort, he said, would help with rising gas prices in the country.
“We have a choice. One way to fight inflation is to drive down wages and make Americans poorer. I have a better way to fight inflation,” Mr. Biden said.
He encouraged more buying of American products and supporting American jobs — a line that led guests in the chamber to break out in chants of “USA.”
President Biden said people could begin ordering another round of free COVID-19 tests next week and encouraged continued vaccinations.
“Thanks to the progress we have made this past year, COVID-19 need no longer control our lives,” Mr. Biden said. “I know some are talking about living with COVID-19. Tonight, I say we will never just accept living with COVID-19.”
As is typical for these speeches, the president touted his administration’s accomplishments during his time in office and highlighted what he wanted to see next: more affordable housing, cuts to child care costs, incentives for more energy-efficient policies, and lower prescription drug costs.
But Mr. Biden didn’t miss taking a jab at former President Donald Trump.
“Unlike the $2 trillion tax cut passed in the previous administration that benefited the top 1% of Americans, the American Rescue Plan helped working people — and left no one behind,” President Biden said.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, responded in real-time to Mr. Biden’s address on social media.
“Are you better off than you were a year ago? For most people, the answer is no. For a few, it’s yes,” Rep. McCarthy said, listing off Mr. Putin, Mexican drug cartels and the Taliban.
“Inflation is rising at the fastest rate in 40 years,” Mr. McCarthy also said. “You don’t need a speech to know what the state of the union is. You feel it every time you go to the grocery store and the gas pump.”
The congressman was seen giving a standing ovation with others in the chamber when President Biden said: “We should all agree, the answer is not to defund the police. The answer is to fund the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities.”
Mr. Biden did stress he would like to see more gun control measures implemented, including banning “assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” passing universal background check laws in Congress and preventing individuals on terrorist watch lists from purchasing a gun.
Another bipartisan moment in the president’s speech came when President Biden called for a fix to the country’s immigration system while securing the border.
Mr. Biden said both could be achieved by installing new technology at the border, setting up joint patrols with Guatemala and Mexico to catch human traffickers and providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, farmworkers and essential workers.
U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., picked Santa Rosa Fire Chief Scott Westrope, who has been at the forefront of combatting the state’s wildfires, as his virtual guest for the address. Chief Westrope grew up in San Luis Obispo County and has worked for the San Luis Obispo ambulance service and Pismo Beach Fire Department, according to a press release.
“I’m grateful for the investments and commitment the Biden administration has made to mitigate and better manage wildfires through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” Chief Westrope said in a statement.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo was the designated survivor during the address.
Mr. Biden ended his address by instilling hope and assigning the U.S. a one-word definition: “possibilities.”
“My report is this: The state of the union is strong because you, the American people, are strong,” President Biden said. “We are stronger today than we were a year ago, and we will be stronger a year from now than we are today.”