Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse said every time the President of the United States delivers a national address before a joint session of Congress is an historic moment. He’s attended three State of the Union speeches, but Wednesday was his first time hearing a president from his party.
It “provided a compelling and optimistic and a hopeful vision for the future of our country,” Neguse said. “Throughout the speech the president appealed to the better angels of our nature.”
In particular, Neguse liked what he heard about how Biden plans to address childhood poverty and climate change,talking about it in the terms of jobs, which is how Neguse has framed his Conservation Corps plan. As the father of a 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Neguse was also encouraged by the focus on early childhood education.
“The proposals he submitted to the Congress this evening were ambitious, they are bold, they are comprehensive. I think they meet the moment,” Neguse said.
Biden spoke of the successes of his first 100 days, which included the vaccine rollout and passage of a coronavirus relief package, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. And he plugged two other pricey packages: A wide ranging and expensive infrastructure bill called the American Jobs Plan, and his equally costly American Families Plan, a transformative plan to help families and kids.
This increase in government is precisely what GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert criticized about the plan. “His speech trampled the Constitution, dismissed our God-given rights, and proposed plans for six trillion in additional spending. He is not the voice of a moderate. Rather, he is a left-wing extremist,” she said in a statement.
The freshman lawmaker snagged one of the few tickets to attend the evening address in-person, as did Neguse and Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper. Biden himself acknowledged the half empty chamber due to the social distancing measure of the pandemic.
“While the setting tonight is familiar, this gathering is very different – a reminder of the extraordinary times we are in,” Biden said early on.
Boebert and other Colorado Republicans take issue with the issues Biden chose not to address in his speech.
“President Biden didn’t talk about the things that the American people needed him to address. He didn’t mention the crisis he created at the southern border, the skyrocketing gas prices, the staggering unemployment rate, or the violence and rioting exploding across our Nation,” she said.
As of March, the unemployment rate stands at 6 percent, down from 14.7 percent last April after the unprecedented economic shutdown from the pandemic. And Boebert is right that gas prices have been on the rise, due to global supply and demand pressures.
Colorado Springs area Rep. Doug Lamborn also took issue with costs. “The first 100 days of Biden's presidency have been marked by outrageous spending and the creation of an entirely new crisis at our Southern Border,” he said in a statement. “Biden's next priority is just as flawed. His ‘infrastructure’ plan is full of unrelated liberal priorities, with only 6% of funding going to roads and bridges. Moving forward, we must stop the reckless spending and halt the wave of illegal immigrants at our southern border."
Biden’s proposed paying for the American Families Plan by having corporate America and the wealthiest 1 percent of people “pay their fair share.” He called for closing loopholes, having the IRS crack down on billionaires and millionaires who “cheat on their taxes,” and raising taxes.
“We take the top tax bracket for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans – those making $400,000 or more – back up to where it was when George W. Bush was president – to 39.6 percent,” he said.
The most recent surge at the Southern border has been a focus of Republicans during Biden’s short tenure. When Biden touched on immigration, Boebert opened a space blanket on the House floor, like the ones given to migrants in detention facilities.
Biden made an overture when the speech turned to immigration. He said that for over 30 years, politicians have talked about immigration reform and done nothing.
“It’s time to fix it,” Biden said.
While the point was a plug for his immigration plan, he acknowledged the difficulty in getting that passed. He asked Congress to work on the parts they can agree on, such as protections for so-called Dreamers, immigrants here on temporary protected status and farmworkers. Bennet is part of a new bipartisan “gang” trying to find out what a 50-50 Senate can agree on.
Overall, Bennet thinks Biden presented an agenda that a majority of Coloradans support.
“We have an incredible opportunity ahead of us to unite the country, strengthen our democracy, and earn the confidence of the American people by responding to their needs. It’s our job to seize this moment and finally invest in the American people.”
Many Colorado Democrats liked what they heard.
Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter said Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are “here to deliver.”
“Tonight we heard from President Biden about the challenges we’ve endured during the COVID-19 pandemic but we were also reminded of the opportunities ahead to create good-paying jobs and a strong economy, invest in our country and its workers, and lift up hardworking families,” he said.
A former Army veteran, Democratic Rep. Jason Crow, said he appreciated Biden’s call to address the “gun violence epidemic” as well as other ideas from police reform to infrastructure.
“President Biden knows that getting things done requires working together,” Crow said. “I’ll continue to hold out my hand to anyone who is willing to come together to move this country forward.”
For Rep. Diana DeGette, it was the call to end cancer that caught her attention. She wants to work with the White House on that goal.
That line drew one of the few bipartisan applauses for Biden, whose eldest son Beau died of cancer. The other was when Biden praised police, and said “the vast men and women in uniform wear their badge and serve their communities honorably.”
The lack of these bipartisan moments spoke to how difficult and narrow the path will be for Democrats to get even a fraction of Biden’s agenda accomplished.
Editor's note: This story has been to corrected to reflect that the 6 percent unemployment rate is for March 2021, not April 2021.