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Russia and inflation take centerstage at SOTU

by PRIDE Newsdesk

President Biden with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the dais for the official address.

When President Joe Biden took the podium for the annual State of the Union Address, it marked the first time two women (Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) sat on the dais for the official address.

The president began by addressing the elephant in the room, or at least Eastern Europe.

He declared that the West had united in tackling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, noting that America would join a host of nations in banning Russian aircraft from its airspace.

“[Russian President] Putin’s war was premeditated and unprovoked. He rejected efforts at diplomacy,” President Biden stated. “He thought the West and NATO wouldn’t respond. And he thought he could divide us here at home. Putin was wrong. We were ready.”

In both a symbolic move and a show of solidarity, the president entered the Joint Session of Congress escorted by U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Indiana), a Ukrainian American.

Domestically and briefly, President Biden called on the Senate to pass voting rights legislation.

“Tonight, I call on the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act,” President Biden said. “And while you’re at it, pass the Disclose Act so Americans can know who is funding our elections.”

He also spelled out his goal of putting a lid on inflation. He proposed cutting the cost of childcare, noting that those living in major cities pay as much as $14,000 per child each year.

“Middle-class and working folks shouldn’t have to pay more than seven percent of their income to care for their young children,” President Biden said. “My plan would cut the cost of childcare in half for most families and help parents, including millions of women who left the workforce during the pandemic because they couldn’t afford childcare.

“[My plan] also includes home-and-long-term care. More affordable housing, Pre-K for three and four-year-olds. All these will lower costs for families. Nobody earning less than $400,000 a year will pay an additional penny in taxes.”

The president also addressed his historic Supreme Court nominee, D.C. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, urging swift confirmation.

“No matter whatever your ideology, we all know one of the most serious constitutional duties a president has is nominating someone to serve on the United States Supreme Court,” the president said. “I’ve nominated Circuit Court of Appeals’ Ketanji Brown Jackson, one of our nation’s top legal minds who will continue in Justice [Stephen] Breyer’s legacy of excellence.”

Turning his attention to the pandemic, the president said cases of COVID-19 finally are falling.

“Thanks to the progress we have made this past year, COVID-19 need no longer control our lives,” President Biden said. “I know some are talking about ‘living with COVID-19.’ But tonight, I say that we will never just accept living with COVID-19. We’re launching the ‘Test to Treat’ initiative so people can get tested at a pharmacy, and if they’re positive, receive antiviral pills on the spot at no cost.”

While Republicans will undoubtedly push back against the president’s address, several civil rights groups applauded him.

“As we assess the state of the union, without question, President Biden gets high marks for supporting legislation on childcare, voting rights, maternal health, abortion access, and worker’s rights,” said Marcela Howell, the president/CEO of ‘In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda.’

“But the same senators who consistently block voting rights protections also block reproductive rights protections and safety nets for working-class families. Make no mistake, the enemies of equality are determined to shut down progress at every turn.”

She said it’s time to pass the president’s Build Back Better bill and protect the lives of all who live in the United States.

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