2022 State of the Union Address Breakdown

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Capitol Hill, where President Biden made his State of the Union address.

Samuel Ge

On March 1, President Joe Biden delivered his first annual State of the Union address. This year’s address lasted exactly one hour and three minutes, which President Biden used to talk about the conflict in Ukraine, inflation and how to reinvigorate the pandemic economy, his plan to improve American infrastructure, and his plan to end the COVID-19 pandemic, among other things. In this article, PEN will break down the key takeaways from his address.

President Biden started off with the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia. In response, the United States and numerous countries around the world have imposed strict economic sanctions on Russia and provided military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. The president used the State of the Union address to assert US support for Ukraine and to enact new sanctions on Russia. As Biden stated, “We are inflicting pain on Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine. Putin is now isolated from the world more than ever. Together with our allies –we are right now enforcing powerful economic sanctions.” 

He also mentioned that the Department of Justice will set up a task force to further pursue the oligarchs that control the Russian government, and he pledged $1 billion in aid to Ukraine. These measures are a step up from previous sanctions, which included things like putting a hold on Russian imports. Similar actions are expected to further damage the already shaken Russian economy, and it is their ultimate goal to end the conflict in Ukraine through pure financial pressure on Russia.

Biden then transitioned to the American economy and his infrastructure plan. He announced that to alleviate fuel prices, the United States would release 30 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a store of oil intended to only be used during emergency situations. Biden used the talk about the economy to emphasize his political victory in passing the American Rescue Plan (which was a stimulus package of approximately 1.9 trillion dollars), and also that the economy added 6.5 million jobs in the past year, which he claims is more “than ever before in the history of America.”

President Biden then talked about his infrastructure plan, and how it would help America compete with other countries like China while helping slow down climate change: “As I’ve told Xi Jinping, it is never a good bet to bet against the American people. We’ll create good jobs for millions of Americans, modernizing roads, airports, ports, and waterways all across America. And we’ll do it all to withstand the devastating effects of the climate crisis and promote environmental justice.”

Biden also urged Congress to pass a bill to invest $100 billion in the domestic tech industry, which he says is the biggest manufacturing bill in American history. Biden outlined a plan where he would “lower costs, not wages” by encouraging domestic growth so that Americans will consume American products, so that the US won’t have to rely on foreign supply chains and be vulnerable to global delays and deadlock. 

The president also mentioned that his economic plans would do things like cut the price of prescription drugs, cut energy costs and double America’s clean energy production, cutting the cost of child care, and imposing a 15% minimum tax rate on big businesses. All of these goals fit into President Biden’s wider social agenda (many of these items were on the Build Back Better bill, a key part of Biden’s social spending plan which died after being passed by the House but not the Senate).

Then, President Biden discussed his COVID-19 response plan. He urged Americans to get vaccinated, and noted that the government is distributing free Covid tests and masks. He called for an end to shutdowns and pledged to fight the virus until the very end. Biden also cautioned Americans, saying that everyone should “stay on guard,” as the pandemic is still going on even if the case count is declining. Biden also noted that the US has sent 475 million vaccine doses to help various countries around the world, and that he firmly believes in the effectiveness of vaccines. He also called for an end to the partisan divide around vaccines and the pandemic in general, saying, “Let’s stop seeing each other as enemies — and start seeing each other for who we really are: fellow Americans. Look, we can’t change how divided we’ve been. That was a long time in coming. But we can change how to move forward on COVID-19 and other issues that we must face together.”

Finally, the president talked briefly about some other topics:

Gun violence: Biden urged lawmakers to take measures against gun violence, repeal the “liability shield” that he says prevents gun makers from being sued, and ban high-capacity magazines on guns.

Voting rights: the president said that “The most fundamental right in America is the right to vote and have it counted. And look, it’s under assault.” He called upon the Senate to pass his Freedom the Vote Act, the DISCLOSE Act, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

Supreme Court nomination: Biden nominated judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by Justice Stephen Breyer, who, if confirmed, will be the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

Immigration: Biden pledged to reform the immigration system by doing things like installing new scanners to detect drugs at border crossings, setting up joint patrols with Mexican and Guatemalan authorities to catch more human traffickers, increasing the number of immigration judges, and simplifying the process to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Roe v. Wade: he promised to uphold the Supreme Court decision that women have a right to an abortion and to protect access to healthcare for everyone. He also encouraged Congress to pass the Equality Act for the protection of LGBTQ+ rights.

Unity Agenda: Biden unveiled “four big things” that he said he believed America could achieve: ending the opioid crisis, improving mental health care (especially for children), supporting our veterans by expanding healthcare eligibility, and ending cancer through a program called ARPA-H (Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health).

Biden listed big plans in his 2022 State of the Union Address; how they will all play out remains to be seen.