State of the Union: Biden announces more Russian sanctions and a plan to tackle inflation

Washington DC - In a State of the Union address dominated by the Ukraine war, President Joe Biden also touched on inflation, policing, and a rebooted Build Back Better legislation under a different name.

President Joe Biden delivering his State of the Union address, with VP Kamala Harris (l.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the background.
President Joe Biden delivering his State of the Union address, with VP Kamala Harris (l.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the background.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

The invasion of Ukraine was always going to be the top item on the agenda, and Biden said the US and its allies were "inflicting pain" on Russia and its president Vladimir Putin, as he announced further moves on Tuesday.

"Throughout our history, we've learned that when dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos," he said, emphasizing the nation's "unwavering resolve that freedom will always triumph over tyranny."

In addition to announcing the US would close off American airspace to Russian flights, he said the US Department of Justice was assembling a task force focused on pursuing criminal activities of Russian oligarchs.

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He said it would work with European allies to seize yachts, luxury apartments, and "ill-begotten gains" of Russian oligarchs.

Biden repeated that US forces would not fight Russian forces on the ground in Ukraine, but rather defend NATO allies in the event that Putin decides to push on further west past Ukraine.

Inflation, policing, but almost no climate

Conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin applauding Biden's speech from the Republican side of the aisle, where he sat for the evening.
Conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin applauding Biden's speech from the Republican side of the aisle, where he sat for the evening.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

The president also acknowledged the pain that ever-rising rising inflation is causing around the US, and put forward "a better plan" to fight it: "I call it building a better America."

Stitched together from some elements of the sunken Build Back Better (BBB) agenda, his proposal included lowering costs by ramping up American manufacturing, cutting drug prices, and investing in new technologies.

But although there was a passing reference to "[doubling] America’s clean energy production in solar, wind, and so much more," the climate crisis got short shrift in a speech given on the same day that the IPCC released its darkest report yet.

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There was also time for Biden to take a shot at those asking for bloated police budgets to be cut, with funds redirected for desperately-needed community services. "We should all agree: the answer is not to defund the police. The answer is to fund the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities," he said.

The address featured a plea to pass gun control legislation, as well as a tribute to the retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

Despite dozens of references to unity across the aisle, the most telling reaction for Biden's chances of success when it comes to his "Building a better America" pivot came from conservative Democrat Joe Manchin, who sat with Republicans during the event.

"They just can’t help themselves," the West Virginia senator smirked, according to The Hill. "I don't know where that came from. Nothing's changed."

Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

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