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What might we hear from Biden’s State of the Union? Colorado leaders weigh in

Representatives, strategist expect energy production and COVID-19 to be key focus of speech
Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California stand and applaud as President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress on April 28, 2021, in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post via AP pool, file)

WASHINGTON – With President Joe Biden set to deliver his first State of the Union address in front of Congress on Tuesday, Colorado representatives and a political strategist said they expect Biden to address COVID-19, rising inflation, national security and more.

Sen. Michael Bennet, who plans to attend the address in person, said it is important for Biden to highlight how Washington leaders are helping return the country to normalcy after a three-year pandemic.

“People in Colorado want to keep their kids in school and leave their masks at home, and I think we’re coming to a moment in the pandemic where we really do have to get back to normal,” Bennet said. “... I hope he projects the idea that the worst is behind us and that we’ve got a bright future ahead.”

Bennet said he hopes Biden will also address priorities for cutting rising costs, inflation and child poverty, the latter of which Bennet has made a keystone policy focus.

The annual address, given near the start of the year’s legislative session, allows the sitting president to reflect on the victories and challenges of the past year and outline a new set of policy priorities for the year ahead. Biden last spoke to members of the House and Senate in an April 2021 address, the night before his 100th day in office.

Ben Stout, communications director for Lauren Boebert, said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made domestic energy independence an important issue for Biden to address. Russia’s attack creates concerns that gas prices may rise if the country’s energy supply is disrupted. Russia is among the world’s top three exporters of oil and natural gas by dollar value.

“Colorado could be doing a whole lot to lead on energy ... and (Boebert) feels like the valley, the Western Slope, certainly the 3rd Congressional District could play a key role in producing energy that benefits America and benefits our allies,” Stout said.

Boebert called for Biden to “immediately unleash our full energy production capabilities” in a Thursday video posted to Twitter. Stout said in his interview with The Durango Herald that Boebert believes this can best be accomplished by resuming construction of the stalled Keystone XL pipeline and allowing oil and gas production on federal lands.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis also addressed energy production in a Thursday statement, calling for Congress to “double down on a rapid clean energy transition to ensure that our energy future cannot be tied to geopolitical conflicts and global commodities.”

Simon Rosenberg, a political strategist and the founder of liberal think tank New Democrat Network, said he also expects the situation in Ukraine to fuel the discussion of global energy systems. But instead of a push to drill on federal lands and building pipelines to transport fossil fuels, he said the focus should be on ramping up clean energy efforts, because many authoritative powers profit from selling fossil fuels.

“Battling climate change is one of the central tools we have of combating authoritarianism and autocracy, and in order to counter (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, we need to accelerate decarbonization and to throw the weight of the United States fully behind a global race to decarbonize,” Rosenberg said.

Beyond climate change and resisting autocratic governments, he said Biden is likely to address the path toward economic recovery and away from COVID-19.

“I think that’s the tone that he has to take, of being a proud father of the nation and acknowledging the grit and resilience of the American people during a time of enormous challenge and that we’ve come through the other side together,” Rosenberg said.

The State of the Union address can be viewed live through the White House website and will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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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