Biden delivers State of the Union address to divided Congress

Washington, Feb 8 (IANS) Since taking office in January 2021, US President Joe Biden delivered his second State of the Union address to a divided Congress.
The address on Tuesday night was a first of its kind before a divided Congress with Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives after last year’s midterm elections and Democrats still running the Senate this term, reports Xinhua news agency.
In one of the major focus points of his address, Biden cited the shooting down of a Chinese spy balloon last week to warn Beijing that Washington “will act” if its sovereignty was threatened.
Without going into specifics, he used the incident to engage in some saber-rattling at Beijing even as sought to frame the relationship with China as a competition rather than a conflict.
“As we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country. And we did,” he said in his address on Tuesday night.
He went on to rub it in and added “name me a world leader who’d change places with (Chinese President) Xi Jinping… Name me one! Name me one!”.
The suspected Chinese spy balloon which was shot down by an American F-22 fighter jet over the Atlantic Ocean on February 4.
US defence officials had first announced they were tracking the “strange object” on February 2, and waited until it was safely over water before shooting it down.
Biden also, devoted a swath of his speech to the economy, touting indicators like low unemployment and slowing inflation rates.
He also used the speech to call upon Congress to raise the debt ceiling.
The federal government reached its borrowing limit last month and is trying to avoid going over the $31.4 trilliondebt ceiling and defaulting on its current obligations.
Seeking to set a bipartisan tone in Tuesday’s address by calling for unity and cooperation between Democrats and Republicans, Biden said, “fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict, gets us nowhere”.
During the first two years of Biden’s presidency, political discord continues to grow, with two parties seeing eye-to-eye on a string of major issues, such as abortion rights, gun violence, immigration, policing reform, climate change and health care.
Republicans — who control the House on Capitol Hill this term — are determined to counter Biden’s and the Democratic Party’s agenda, dimming the prospect of any major legislation on those issues being approved by Congress despite the president’s political overtures.
“In the radical left’s America, Washington taxes you and lights your hard-earned money on fire, but you get crushed with high gas prices, empty grocery shelves, and our children are taught to hate one another on account of their race,” Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded when delivering the Republican rebuttal after Biden’s speech.
The parents of Tyre Nichols, a black man brutally beaten by a group of police officers in Memphis, Tennessee, after a traffic stop exactly a month ago and died days later, attended Biden’s address.
Nichols’ death revived the painful memory of the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Floyd, also a black man, died on May 25, 2020, after an encounter with Minneapolis police, during which a white officer knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes during the arrest.
While reflecting on the suffering of Nichols, Biden asked US lawmakers to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would make it easier to prosecute police officers for misconduct but has stalled due to partisan disagreements.
Since the start of this year, the US has suffered a spate of mass shootings across the country.
Biden urged Congress to “ban assault weapons once and for all” on Tuesday but it’s unlikely for Republicans — who, in general, support gun rights and are opposed to more restrictions to carry firearms — to come on board with the idea.
Other major foreign policy issue the President addressed at some length was Ukraine.
He reiterated his administration’s commitment to helping Ukraine “as long as it takes” amid Moscow’s ongoing war against Kiev.
The US has sent billions worth of military equipment to help Ukraine defend itself in the face of Russian invasion, and he has rallied NATO and other allies to do the same.
“We united NATO and built a global coalition.We stood against (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s aggression,” he said.
Biden’s speech was aimed largely at the domestic audience with talk of him getting ready to announce his re-election bid for 2024.
His predecessor Donald Trump has already launched a third White House bid.

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