Lawmakers praise and pan Biden's speech, wonder about action

by · Washington Examiner

Lawmakers said they shared many of the priorities President Joe Biden discussed in his first State of the Union address but still disagreed about the policies the country should pursue.

Condemning Russia’s violent invasion into Ukraine was a central component of Biden’s speech, with Democrats arguing he hit all the right notes.

“I think he made it very clear to the American people that in the world that he's leading the world and standing up to Putin's aggression, and standing with the Ukrainian people who have been so inspiring to all of us, as these terrible days have unfolded," Rep. James McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, told the Washington Examiner


But top Republicans argued that while Biden remained on message, they do not believe he is going far enough to make Russian President Vladimir Putin feel the pain for his unprompted aggression against Ukraine, arguing that additional sanctions and U.S. energy independence are critical in the current geopolitical climate. 

Critics of Biden's handling of the crisis in Ukraine argue that by continuing to utilize Russian energy sources, the U.S. is helping indirectly fund Russia’s actions. 

“Regarding Ukraine, I think a lot of what he was saying about what he's doing now with sanctions is a step in the right direction,” House Homeland Security Committee ranking member John Katko, a New York Republican, said in an interview. 

“In order to finish off that effort, I think he needs to stop the U.S. from buying Russian oil that is helping to fund the killing of Ukrainian citizens, and he could do that by balancing that with rolling back his restrictions and impediments to oil production in the U.S. that he had imposed when he became president — it may not be a perfect balance, but at least it would help ameliorate the hurt we would feel from not getting that oil from Russia,”  he said.

Freshman Rep. Scott Franklin, a Florida Republican who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, echoed Katko’s sentiments, arguing that not imposing stronger sanctions has helped fund Putin’s efforts. 

"With the oil we're importing from Russia now, it's given Putin $75 million a day, and we've been doing that for a while now. We've gone from being energy independent to now being dependent on other countries. I think that bolstered his [Putin's] war chest,” he said. 

Rep. Garrett Graves said he was encouraged by the beginning and end of the speech but felt the middle component missed the mark. 

“I liked the way that he started it and ended it. I thought the talking about Ukraine and freedom to overtake the tyranny, the straight Ukrainian people, I thought all that was great. But the way that he ended up talking about the four things everybody was supportive of,” the Louisiana Republican said. 

“I think the middle is what most was referred to, to be polite, as a s*** sandwich — that  part was just really frustrating to hear him talking about 'Buy America,' which I think we all support, but why not American energy?" he asked. "Why are you buying American other things but not American energy? We want to see consistency there.” 

While Biden’s comments pushing back on the Left's calls to defund the police were met with cheers by Republicans and some Democrats, progressives slammed his comments, with Rep. Cori Bush, a Missouri Democrat, blasting the remarks and questioning his support of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“With all due respect, Mr. President. You didn’t mention saving Black lives once in this speech. All our country has done is given more funding to police. The result? 2021 set a record for fatal police shootings. Defund the police. Invest in our communities,” she tweeted. 


McGovern blasted his GOP colleagues for their reactions to some of the president’s comments during the speech, arguing that they have “become the party of no” and alleged they are blinded by Trumpism. 

"I mean they [Republicans] all sat on their hands when he talked about jobs, they sat on their hands when he talked about getting eliminated lead pipe, so the kids would have been drinking contaminated water,” he said.  “They sat on their hands, we talked about lowering child care costs, maybe they want to increase child care costs. I mean, they are the party of no.”