President Joe Biden delivered his second State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on February 7, 2023. This speech, coming off the heels of the midterm elections that delivered him a divided Congress, touted the president’s commitment to bipartisanship. Biden noted that he has signed over 300 bipartisan bills, including the Respect for Marriage Act, the Electoral Count Act, and the Violence Against Women Act.
Much of his address focused on his administration’s efforts to combat inflation over the past year. Biden argued that the CHIPS and Science Act created nearly a million new manufacturing jobs. The infrastructure bill passed in 2021 has taken effect over the past year, with 20,000 new building projects for bridges, airports, and highways across the country with materials made in America. Additionally his administration, through the Inflation Reduction Act, has brought down costs for prescription drugs and capping insulin for Medicare recipients. Biden continued by arguing that his administration, through congressional action, is combating climate change by investing in green jobs, electric vehicle charging stations, and lowering utility bills. All of this would be paid for by raising taxes on corporations and billionaires, and Biden urged Congress to do more to increase revenue for his agenda.
Much of the remainder of Biden’s speech focused on what Congress should work on: slashing junk fees, passing the PRO Act to allow workers to unionize, pass a paid and sick leave bill, pass an affordable housing plan, give teachers a raise, and codify the right to an abortion outlined in Roe v. Wade. Additionally, he challenged Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill for the second year in a row by funding both border security and protecting Dreamers and TPS recipients.
He concluded his address by talking more about public safety — the death of Tyre Nichols from police brutality and urging Congress to do something to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing bill, the gun reforms he signed in the aftermath of the Uvalde shooting, securing the border and ending the fentanyl crisis, cutting cancer rates by 50% in the next 25 years, uniting the world against autocracy and foreign aggression like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Like in his 2022 address, the president finished by saying the state of our union is strong.
Every year, the political party that does not occupy the White House gives a response to the president’s address. This year, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivered the rebuttal to President Biden’s address to Congress. The crux of her response was to draw a contrast with the president, saying that Biden and the Democrats have failed to keep America safe. She continued by drawing a contrast between herself and Biden: she is 40 while he is 80; she is the youngest governor in the country and he is the oldest president in history; she is the first woman to lead her state and he is the first president to “surrender to the woke mob.”
She then touted some of the actions her administration has taken in Arkansas — repealing COVID orders and banning CRT in schools, contrasting with Biden’s tax-and-spend agenda. She claimed that he is unwilling to secure the border and save American lives; he is unable to keep the world safe, whether it’s in Afghanistan or Ukraine.
Her response touts the Republican Party’s agenda, which is to give every child access to a quality education, to defend and protect freedom, and give families the opportunity to thrive in safe communities. Concluding her speech with a story about traveling with President Trump to Iraq, she said a new generation of Republican leaders are stepping to be changemakers for the American people.
In the 2022 address to Congress, President Joe Biden signaled that the state of the Union was strong. He spent much of his speech ticking off several different legislative goals his administration passed with the help of Congress — namely the 2021 American Rescue Plan and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Additionally, he expressed solidarity with Ukraine in its war against Russia, urging Congress to pass an aid bill to the country while announcing that he would take action to cripple Russian financial assets around the world.
He also outlined a plan to combat inflation, which includes making more products in America, cutting the costs of prescription drugs, energy, and child care, and placing a 15% minimum tax rate for corporations. Biden also listed other priorities of his administration that he urged Congress to act on: paid leave, the Violence Against Women Act, the Equality Act, raising the minimum wage, passing a democracy reform package, and acting on gun violence by passing universal background checks and banning assault weapons.
Lastly, Biden talked about public safety — noting that the government should not be defunding the police, but funding it — focusing on investing more in reforms such as community policing and body cameras that, he argued, would help reduce crime and increase public safety. Biden also talked about public safety in the context of border policy, arguing for both securing the border as well as providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and TPS recipients.
In response to President Biden’s State of the Union address in 2022, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds rebutted some of the arguments on the state of the economy and the world. Reynolds argued that the economic mood was reminiscent of the late 1970s and early 1980s — when crime was up, inflation was hurting families, and the Soviet Union was attempting to redraw the world map. She noted that the state of the world is not stronger under President Biden — the withdrawal from Afghanistan was a disaster; North Korea is again testing missiles; Russia has invaded Ukraine. This is not strength, she claimed. Regarding the economy, Governor Reynolds argued that spending more money would only make inflation worse, not better. Instead, the government, mostly under Republican governments across the country, are cutting taxes and balancing budgets in an effort to alleviate the economic strain on everyday families. Reynolds ends her response by saying that the soul of the nation is not who occupies the White House, it’s the everyday Americans who step up and take responsibility. In that way, she concludes, the state of the union is “indeed strong.”
This research was compiled by Nick Israel and Noah Andrew.
Nick Israel (he/him/his) has been at Vote Smart since January 2022 and researched candidate issue positions before becoming Director of Elections Research last December. Prior to working at the organization, he studied political science and history at the University of Washington and American government at Georgetown University. In his free time, he likes to read political history.
Noah Andrew is the Assistant National Director at Vote Smart who started in May 2021 after completing his Master’s Degree in Women and Gender Studies from University of Northern Iowa. As the Assistant National Director, Noah is responsible for the oversight, development, and delivery of all of Vote Smart’s research data.