Biden delivers State of the Union address to divided Congress amid sour public mood

2023-02-08 11:15:19Xinhua Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

U.S. President Joe Biden delivered his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday night amid a sour public mood.

This is Biden's second State of the Union speech since he took office in January 2021 and the 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.

The primetime remarks came a week after a Gallup poll showed that most Americans remain downbeat on the way things are going in the United States, with only 23 percent saying that they are satisfied while more than three-quarters are dissatisfied.

Meanwhile, Biden's overall job performance rating continues to be sinking. According to U.S. poll tracker FiveThirtyEight, the Democrat's approval rating stood at 43.2 percent as of Tuesday, while disapproval of the job he's doing stood at 52.3 percent. More Americans are holding a negative view of his handling of the country's economy.

Biden, nevertheless, devoted a swath of his speech on Tuesday to the economy, touting indicators like low unemployment and slowing inflation rates. However, inflation in the United States is still at a high level rarely seen in past history and many economists remain concerned that the U.S. economy will fall into a recession later this year.

Biden 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 trillion-U.S. dollar debt ceiling and defaulting on its current obligations.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who sat behind Biden during his speech to a joint session of Congress alongside U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, said on Monday that "defaulting on our debt is not an option" but "a responsible debt limit increase that begins to eliminate wasteful Washington spending and puts us on a path towards a balanced budget is not only the right place to start."

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva has recently warned that a U.S. default "would cause significant damage" to the global economy.

"It will be very damaging for U.S. consumers if the U.S. defaults, that would push interest rates up," Georgieva told CBS News during an interview. "And if people don't like inflation today, they're not going to like at all what may happen tomorrow."

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 U.S. 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 United States 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.

Biden's latest remarks to Congress also took place against the backdrop of Republicans-led House investigations of his alleged mishandling of classified documents and before his announcement to run for reelection.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump -- who lost to Biden during the 2020 race but has refused to concede -- has already launched a third White House bid while being investigated for his dealing with classified documents.


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