Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Biden details policy agenda for a second term at State of the Union

Rachel Choi

Amid the fanfare of handshakes, selfies, and chants of  “Four More Years,” President Joe Biden entered the House Chamber for his third State of the Union address on Thursday, March 8. 

Biden’s audience within the House Chamber included members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, members of his Cabinet, Justices of the Supreme Court, Joint Chiefs of Staff, First Lady Jill Biden, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, and many others. 

This was arguably Biden’s largest audience of the 2024 election cycle thus far, and he was tasked with pitching to the American public why the State of the Union is strong and why he should be afforded a second term to build upon this progress. 

Biden framed his speech by detailing how President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke to the nation during the unprecedented conflict of World War II. Biden said that Roosevelt’s purpose was to “wake up the Congress and alert the American people.” 

“Not since President Lincoln and the Civil War have freedom and democracy been under assault here at home as they are today,” Biden said. 

Biden went on to call for increased aid to Ukraine and for Congress to pass a bipartisan national security bill. 

“My message to President Putin is simple,” Biden said. “We will not walk away. We will not bow down. I will not bow down.” 

Biden commemorated Sweden’s admission to the NATO military alliance and recognized Sweden’s Prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson, who was in attendance. 

“Mr. Prime Minister, welcome to NATO, the strongest military alliance the world has ever known,” Biden said. 

Biden revisited how democracy was under siege three years ago when the Capitol was stormed on Jan. 6, 2021. 

“Jan. 6, the lies about the 2020 election, and the plots to steal the election posed the gravest threat to our democracy since the Civil War,” Biden said. “But they failed. America stood strong and democracy prevailed. 

Throughout the address, Biden looked to contrast himself with former President Donald Trump, whom Biden did not mention by name but instead referred to him as his “predecessor.” The Jan. 6 riot was one of these points of contrast for Biden. 

“My predecessor and some of you here seek to bury the truth of Jan. 6,” Biden said. “I will not do that … Remember your oath of office to defend against all threats, foreign and domestic.”

Biden noted his support for various reproductive health policies, including in vitro fertilization (IFV) and abortion, both of which are unlawful in various parts of the country after Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022 and an Alabama Supreme Court ruling in early 2024 that classified frozen embryos as children.

“In its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court majority wrote, ‘Women are not without electoral or political power,’” Biden said. “No kidding … They found out when reproductive freedom was on the ballot and won in 2022, 2023, and they will find out again in 2024.” 

Biden touted the success of several bills passed through Congress, such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the CHIPS Act, both of which have increased the number of infrastructure projects and semiconductor chips produced in the United States. 

Biden took a jab at Republicans in Congress who voted against these bills. 

“I notice some of you [who] strongly voted against [the bills] are there cheering on the money coming in,” Biden said. “If any of you don’t want that money in your district, just let me know.” 

Looking ahead, Biden desires to create a “future of possibilities” so more Americans can feel the benefits of the policies his administration has enacted. He touted the fact that Medicare has capped the cost of insulin at $35 per month and prescription drugs at $2,000 per year for senior citizens, policies Biden wishes to make a reality for all Americans. 

Biden noted that more Americans are now insured under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) than ever before. To the Republicans who wish to repeal the ACA, Biden said, “I will not let that happen.” 

Biden continued that for the United States to have the strongest economy in the world, it also needs to have a top-tier education system. He hopes to provide preschool for all children aged 3 and 4 years old, expand high-quality tutoring, and ensure that college is more affordable.

Biden proposed a tax hike on billionaires, increasing the tax rate from 8.2 percent to 25 percent to ensure the wealthiest in this country “pay their fair share.” According to the Biden administration, this proposal would generate $500 billion in revenue over 10 years. 

A point of contention between the Biden administration and Congress is how to address the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. A bipartisan group of senators drafted a border security bill that would have hired 1,500 additional border security agents, 100 immigration judges, 4,300 asylum officers, and 100 drug detection machines in hopes of fast-tracking asylum and immigration cases. The bill was endorsed by the Border Patrol Union and the Chamber of Commerce, but it was blocked by a group of Republican senators reportedly influenced by Trump. 

“I’m told my predecessor called Republicans in Congress and demanded they block the bill,” Biden said. “If my predecessor is watching, instead of playing politics and pressuring members of Congress to block this bill, join me in telling Congress to pass it.” 

Biden further used this moment to contrast himself with Trump on the topic of border security. 

“I will not demonize immigrants saying they ‘poison the blood of our country,’” Biden said. “I will not separate families. I will not ban people from America because of their faith.” 

Biden called on Congress to pass many acts proposed in the current and previous legislative sessions, including the Freedom to Vote Act,  the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,  the Equality Act, and the PRO Act. Additionally, Biden called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and the institution of universal background checks on gun sales. 

Toward the end of his address, Biden addressed the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. He noted that Israel had a right to defend itself against Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack but that it also has a right to protect innocent civilians in Gaza. 

“This war has taken a greater toll on innocent civilians than all previous wars in Gaza combined,” Biden said. “More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed; thousands and thousands are innocent women and children. Nearly 2 million more Palestinians are under bombardment or are displaced. Homes destroyed, neighborhoods in rubble, cities in ruin.” 

Biden said his administration had been working to establish an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that would last for at least six weeks. He said this would allow hostages to be brought home, help ease the humanitarian crisis, and allow parties involved to work toward a more long-term solution. 

On the humanitarian front, Biden is directing the U.S. military to establish a temporary pier in the Mediterranean Sea that would allow for the delivery of food, water, medicine, and temporary shelters. 

“To the leadership of Israel, I say this: Humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip,” Biden said. “Protecting and saving lives has to be a priority.” 

Biden said that the only long-term solution is a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. 

“There is no other path that guarantees Israel’s security and democracy,” Biden said. “There is no other path that guarantees Palestinians can live with peace and dignity.” 

Biden addressed his age, one of the main concerns surrounding his re-election campaign. 

“My fellow Americans, the issue facing our nation is not how old we are. It is how old our ideas are,” Biden said. “You can’t lead America with ancient ideas that only take us back … You need a vision for the future of what America can and should be.” 

Biden ended his address by alluding to the future he wishes to foster within America during a second term. 

“I see a future where we defend democracy, not diminish it … where we restore the right to choose and protect other freedoms, not take them away,” Biden said. “I see a future where the middle class finally has a fair shot, and the wealthy finally have to pay their fair share in taxes … where we save the planet from the climate crisis and our country from gun violence.” 

Biden concluded by saying, “The State of our Union is strong and getting stronger. When America gets knocked down, we get back up. We keep going.” 

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DJ Mara
DJ Mara, Assistant News Editor

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