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Biden addresses Russia, inflation and a new era of the pandemic

Boebert heckles president during one of most disruptive moments of State of the Union
President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol on Tuesday in Washington. (Saul Loeb/Associated Press pool)
Mar 1, 2022
Boebert’s outburst on Afghanistan jolts State of the Union

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden drew a firm stance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and outlined plans to fight rising inflation and cautiously pivot away from the COVID-19 pandemic crisis in his first State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Throughout the speech, Biden heralded national unity as the key to fighting crises at home and abroad. But he was met at least once with heckles from Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert.

“To our fellow Ukrainian Americans who forge a deep bond that connects our two nations, we stand with you,” Biden said. “Putin may circle Kyiv with tanks, but he will never gain the hearts and souls of the Ukrainian people. He will never extinguish their love of freedom. He will never weaken the resolve of the free world.”

Dozens of representatives seated in the chamber sported Ukrainian flags and badges, which they waved periodically in support of the country. Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova attended as one of first lady Jill Biden’s guests.

The 62-minute speech comes at a pivotal moment in Biden’s tenure, as the upcoming 2022 midterms threaten to upend the Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. At home, inflation has hit a 40-year high and Biden’s average approval rating sits just above 41%, according to FiveThirtyEight. Abroad, Russia’s attack on Ukraine has helped define Biden’s foreign policy approach. Tuesday’s speech marked the second time Biden has addressed a joint session of Congress.

Biden urged the country to start moving forward from the COVID-19 pandemic, telling Americans that though the virus should no longer control daily life, his administration will continue to combat the virus with four “common-sense steps,” which included providing more free tests to households starting next week.

“Because of the progress we’ve made, because of your resilience and the tools we have, tonight I can say we are moving forward safely, back to more normal routines,” he said.

Continuing the fight against the pandemic as it wanes will require more funding, Biden said, as he asked Congress to pass legislation that would pay for the availability of free vaccines, tests and masks.

Biden also outlined his plans to address rising inflation by increasing investments in domestic manufacturing and urging companies to “lower your costs, not your wages.” Among the policy priorities Biden highlighted was a call to extend the Child Tax Credit, one of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s keystone legislative priorities.

“As President Biden said, this is a moment for Americans to come together, stand up for democracy, and strengthen our economy to drive opportunity to all,” Bennet said in a statement released shortly after the speech. “Now is the time for Congress to support the people of Ukraine and punish Russia’s aggression, cut costs for working families, and do everything we can to help America return to normal so businesses can stay open and students can stay in school.”

Biden also touched on the progress the nation has made during the past year, with most Americans vaccinated and his infrastructure bill, a major campaign promise, signed into law. Throughout the speech, Biden highlighted several aspects of his stalled Build Back Better bill, but never mentioned it explicitly.

Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., left, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., right, scream “build the wall” as President Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool via AP)
Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., wears an outfit reading “Drill Baby Drill” as she arrives in the chamber of the House of Representatives before the State of the Union address by President Joe Biden. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP)

Boebert, who tweeted frequently throughout Biden’s speech, called Biden “the weakest and worst president in American history,” in a video statement posted to Twitter after the address.

Near the end of Biden’s speech, as he was discussing toxic smoke in Iraq and Afghanistan that causes “a cancer that would put (troops) in a flag-draped coffin,” Boebert yelled, “You put them in – 13 of them,” eliciting boos from the Democratic side of the chamber. The disruption appeared to be a dig at the 13 soldiers who died during the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

Boebert, who wore a shawl with the words“Drill baby drill” on the back, was also seen joining fellow Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene shouting “build the wall” leading up to Biden’s remarks on immigration.

Biden’s final remarks defined America as a nation of possibilities that must unite “to meet and overcome the challenges of our time. And we will, as one people,” he said.

Skye Witley, a senior at American University in Washington, D.C., is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez. He can be reached at switley@durangoherald.com.

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