Biden’s first State of the Union gets mixed reaction from NYC House Delegation

U.S. President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, U.S, March 1, 2022. Saul Loeb/Pool via REUTERS

Following President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address last night, most of New York City’s Congressional delegation applauded the president’s record over the past year while acknowledging there’s more work to be done.

Biden, who currently has the second lowest approval rating on record – around 41 percent, began his address with a clear pro-democracy message directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin amid an ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. The president outlined a number of tactics the United States and its allies are using – including severe economic sanctions and cutting Russia off from global markets – aimed at pressuring Putin to end the invasion.

However, Biden made it clear his administration has no plans of deploying ground forces in Ukraine, while emphasizing that American troops stationed in Europe stand ready to protect members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

In a release, U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D – Manhattan, Bronx) said Biden used his biggest platform of the year to strike the right tone during Europe’s first major land war since the 1990s.

“In this significant moment on the world stage, the President laid out our efforts to rally the world to stand up for democracy against Russian aggression,” Espaillat said. “The bravery of the Ukrainian people has inspired the world and as the President laid out plain and clear, America pledges to Ukraine that the United States stands with them and will provide military, economic, and humanitarian assistance.”

Biden also used his platform to tout some of his economic wins over the past year. These included passing the stimulus bill known as the American Rescue Plan and the bipartisan infrastructure deal that will primarily fund rehabilitating the country’s physical infrastructure.

While Biden failed to deliver the Build Back Better Act – which would’ve significantly expanded federal spending on social programs – last year, progressive U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D – Bronx, Westchester) said Biden’s speech gave him confidence that many of the bill’s central tenets are still on the president’s agenda.

“President Biden made it clear that we’re talking about lowering costs and raising wages,” Bowman said in a statement. “We’re talking about universal childcare and pre-k. We’re talking about investing in our infrastructure so that it’s resilient to storms like Ida. We’re talking about making our communities safer by getting ghost guns off the street and providing a holistic, wrap-around approach to public-safety that addresses the root causes of gun violence. We’re talking about investing in our schools and addressing the youth mental health crisis.”

It’s not clear, however, how Biden will get any of these progressive initiatives passed with a 50-50 Senate and the midterm elections just around the corner.

The president also outlined a four-point plan to bring down increasing inflation, which includes calling on companies to bring manufacturing back to the United States and lowering prices without cutting wages.

Praise for Biden stayed divided on party lines, with most Republicans in the House chamber choosing not to stand and clap for the president when he announced his economic accomplishments. In a statement, U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island, Brooklyn) criticized Biden on everything from his response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine to rising crime rates in cities across the country.

“The real State of our Union is that Americans are struggling under one-party Democrat rule,” Malliotakis said. “Inflation is hitting record highs, crime is skyrocketing in our cities, fentanyl is streaming over our open border, we are energy dependent on our adversaries, and Biden’s weak foreign policy has embarrassed us on the world stage. We must come together to reverse the damage done over the past year and, just like I did to deliver necessary infrastructure investment, I’m willing to work with anyone who wants to pass common sense legislation that enhances our national security, reduces costs for Americans and keeps our streets safe.”