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Biden says in State of Union that the United States is ‘unyielding, unbroken’

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden used his State of the Union address Tuesday night to call on Republicans to work with him to “finish the job” of rebuilding the economy and uniting the nation as he seeks to overcome pessimism in the country and navigate political divisions in Washington.

The annual address comes as the nation struggles to make sense of the confusing cross-currents at home and abroad — economic uncertainty, a grueling war in Ukraine, rising tensions with China and more — and cautiously assesses the Biden’s suitability for a likely re-election bid. The president offers a reassuring assessment of the state of the nation rather than rolling out flashy policy proposals.

“America’s story is one of progress and resilience,” Biden says, according to excerpts released ahead of time by the White House. It highlights record job creation under his tenure as the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. And he says that two years after the January 6, 2021 insurrection on Capitol Hill, the country’s democracy is “unyielding and unbroken.”

With Republicans now in control of the House, Biden points to areas of bipartisan progress in his first two years in office, including on vital state infrastructure and high-tech manufacturing. And he said, “There’s no reason why we can’t work together in this new Congress.

“The people sent us a clear message. Fighting for fight, power for power, conflict for conflict, gets us nowhere,” Biden 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 were sent here to finish the job!

The president takes the House podium at a time when only a quarter of American adults say things in the country are moving in the right direction, according to a new poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. About three-quarters say things are on the wrong track. And a majority of Democrats don’t want Biden to seek another term.

He faces those feelings head-on, aides say.

“You wonder if there is still a path for you and your children to move forward without drifting apart, I get it,” Biden says. “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’ve made over the past two years.”

The setting for Biden’s speech looks markedly different than a year ago, when it was stalwart Democrat Nancy Pelosi seated behind him as House Speaker – albeit tighter security measures than Habit returned in a holdover from the 2021 attack. Pelosi was replaced by Republican Kevin McCarthy, and it was unclear what kind of reception wayward Republicans in the chamber would give the Democratic president.

McCarthy vowed Monday to be “respectful” during his speech and in turn asked Biden to refrain from using the phrase “extreme MAGA Republicans,” which the president deployed on the campaign trail in 2022. .

“I won’t tear up the speech, I won’t play games,” McCarthy told reporters, a reference to Pelosi’s dramatic acting after President Donald Trump’s final State of the Union address.

Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has gained national profile as Trump’s press secretary, was expected to deliver the Republican response to Biden’s speech.

She was to focus much of her remarks on social issues, including race in business and education and alleged big tech censorship of conservatives.

“As you reap the consequences of their failures, the Biden administration seems more interested in waking fantasies than the harsh reality that Americans face every day,” she was to say, according to excerpts released by her office. “Most Americans just want to live their lives in freedom and peace, but we are under attack in a leftist culture war that we didn’t start and never wanted to fight.”

With COVID-19 restrictions now lifted, the White House and lawmakers from both parties invited guests designed to bring political messages home with their presence in the House chamber. The parents of Tire Nichols, who was badly beaten by police officers in Memphis and later died, are among those expected to sit with first lady Jill Biden. Other Biden guests include rock star/humanitarian Bono and the 26-year-old who disarmed a gunman in the Monterey Park, Calif., shooting last month.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus invited family members of those involved in police incidents, as they sought to press for action on police reform in the wake of Nichols’ death. A White House fact sheet ahead of the speech linked police reform with reducing violence, suggesting that giving police better training tools could lead to less crime nationwide.

Biden is changing his mind after spending his first two years pushing through major bills such as the bipartisan infrastructure package, legislation to promote high-tech manufacturing and climate action. With Republicans now in control of the House, he is focused on implementing these massive laws and making sure voters credit the improvements to him.

Change is largely out of necessity. The newly empowered GOP is eager to undo many of its accomplishments and is committed to continuing a host of investigations, including reviewing recent discoveries of classified documents from his time as vice president at his home and in his former desk.

At the same time, Biden will have to find a way to work across the aisle to maintain government funding by raising the federal debt ceiling by this summer. He insisted he will not negotiate on the country’s debt obligations; Republicans have been equally adamant that he must make concessions on spending.

On the eve of the president’s speech, McCarthy challenged Biden to come to the negotiating table with House Republicans to cut spending as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

“We need to move toward a balanced budget and insist on real accountability for every dollar we spend,” McCarthy said.

As hopes for broad-based bipartisanship dim, Biden was reiterating his 2022 call for Congress to back his ‘unity agenda’ of actions to tackle the opioid epidemic, mental health , veterans health and cancer. He was expected to announce new executive action and call on lawmakers to act in support of new measures to support cancer research, address housing needs and suicide among veterans, improve access to mental health care and to continue cracking down on the deadly fentanyl trade.

The White House said the president would call for extending the new $35-a-month price cap on insulin for people on Medicare to everyone in the country. He would also push Congress to quadruple the 1% tax on corporate stock buybacks that was signed into law in the Democrats’ climate and health care bill passed last year, known as the Inflation Reduction Act.

The speech comes days after Biden ordered the military to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew brazenly across the country, captivating the nation and serving as a reminder of the strained relationship between the two world powers.

Last year’s address came just days after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and many in the West doubted Kyiv’s ability to withstand the onslaught. Over the past year, the United States and other allies have sent tens of billions of dollars in military and economic aid to bolster Ukraine’s defenses. Now Biden must advocate — both at home and abroad — to maintain this coalition as the war drags on.


PA Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.


Follow AP’s coverage of the State of the Union address at: https://apnews.com/hub/state-of-the-union-address

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