Five standout moments from President Biden’s State of the Union address

In case you missed Biden’s prime-time remarks or you're in need of a simplified breakdown of the presidential address, here are some takeaways for Black America.

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President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, which lasted more than an hour, touched on a range of issues both domestic and foreign. From announcing a maskless turning point on the COVID-19 pandemic to making it clear where he stands on “defunding the police,” the president’s remarks summarized the state of America and the work that lies ahead for the Biden-Harris administration.

In case you missed Biden’s prime time remarks or you are in need of a simplified breakdown of the presidential address, here are five takeaways, particularly as it relates to Black America.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a joint session of Congress in the U.S. Capitol’s House Chamber on March 01, 2022 in Washington, DC. During his first State of the Union address, Biden spoke on his administration’s efforts to lead a global response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, efforts to curb inflation and bringing the country out of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Jabin Botsford-Pool/Getty Images)

Biden wants to fund the police

Despite Republican talking points that Democrats want to defund the police, the party’s leader and nation’s commander-in-chief made it clear during his State of the Union address that not only does he not support defunding the police — he wants to fund the police with more federal dollars to combat rising violent crime and support community intervention programs. 

“The answer is not to defund the police. It’s to fund the police. Fund them. Fund them. Fund them with resources and training. Resources and training they need to protect their communities,” said President Biden, who asked Congress to pass his $500 million budget request to reduce gun crime and “keep our neighborhoods safe.”

President Biden, who did not announce his expected executive orders on police reform to supplement the lack of passage of the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act, also called for police accountability and touted his Justice Department for requiring police body cameras, banning chokeholds, and restricting no-knock warrants for federal officers.

“Let’s not abandon our streets, or choose between safety and equal justice. Let’s come together and protect our communities, restore trust and hold law enforcement accountable,” he said. 

A new chapter in COVID-19 pandemic 

For the first time since taking office, President Joe Biden addressed a mostly maskless joint Congress, members of his cabinet, Supreme Court justices, and distinguished guests. This signaled a turning point for the country after the CDC eased its mask guidelines allowing most Americans living in low or medium risk of COVID-19 to live mask free. 

“Thanks to the progress we have made in the past year, COVID-19 no longer need control our lives,” said President Biden. “Under these new guidelines, most Americans in most of the country can now go mask free. And based on projections, more of the country will reach that point across the next couple of weeks.”

The president cautioned, however, that “we’ll continue to combat the virus as we do other diseases. And because this virus mutates and spreads, we have to stay on guard.”

While the virus may not be completely gone, the sight of a maskless Washington elite hugging and shaking hands in the U.S. House chamber indicated that the United States had finally reached a point of pre-pandemic normalcy. 

U.S. President Joe Biden embraces Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) after Biden delivered the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the U.S. Capitol’s House Chamber March 01, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Historic and diverse nominations

During his remarks, the president praised his recent U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. While Biden did not directly address the confirmation process and the Republican senators who will vote to confirm or not confirm her, he did lay out why he believed she was more than qualified for the job.

The president praised Judge Brown Jackson as “one of our nation’s top legal minds, who will continue in Justice [Stephen] Breyer’s legacy of excellence.”

“A former top litigator in private practice. A former federal public defender. From a family of public school educators and police officers. She’s a consensus builder,” he added. “Since she’s been nominated, she’s received a broad range of support — including the Fraternal Order of Police and former judges appointed by Democrats and Republicans.”

President Biden also urged the Senate to confirm his nominees to the Federal Reserve Board, as Republicans have blocked the confirmations from moving forward. Two of the three nominees are Black – Phillip Jefferson and Lisa Cook, who if confirmed, would become the first Black woman to serve on the board. Confirming his Fed nominees, the president said, “plays a critical role in fighting inflation.”

Speaking of diversity, Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made history Tuesday night as they marked the first time in U.S. history that two women sat behind a sitting president during a State of the Union address. It was a fitting start to Women’s History Month. 

Biden heckled during speech

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) scream “Build the Wall” as U.S. President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress in the U.S. Capitol’s House Chamber March 01, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein-Pool/Getty Images)

While it may not have been as controversial as the time when U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina yelled out “You lie!” during President Barack Obama’s joint address to Congress in 2009, President Biden’s State of the Union address did not come without audible rumblings from Republicans.

As reported by The Washington Post, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado heckled President Biden as he spoke about his son, Beau Biden, dying of cancer. As Biden urged Congress to pass legislation that would aid veterans exposed to toxins in Iraq and Afghanistan that he claimed to lead to cancer, Boebert shouted, “You put them there. Thirteen of them!”

Similarly, Republican firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who recently attended an event hosted by white nationalists, reportedly shouted out during the president’s remarks. Democratic candidate Marcus Flowers, who is seeking to unseat Greene in her 14th congressional district this year, tweeted, “Disgusting and disgraceful. Just like January 6th, Marjorie Taylor Greene shows no respect for our Capitol, or the Presidency. Let’s make sure she is watching on TV next year.”

Voting rights gets a brief mention

Despite President Biden’s big push in January around the MLK holiday to get Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, federal voting rights legislation to combat a wave of voter restriction laws passed in Republican-controlled states have yet to be passed.

During his remarks, Biden urged the Senate to pass the pieces of legislation and called voting “the most fundamental right in America,” adding that the right to vote is “under assault.”

“In state after state, new laws have been passed, not only to suppress the vote — we’ve been there before — but to subvert the entire election. We can’t let this happen,” he said.

While the holdup is largely due to Republican opposition in the U.S. Senate, Senator Krysten Sinema and Senator Joe Manchin’s refusal to work with fellow Democrats to eliminate or modify the filibuster is also to blame. It is unlikely their positions will change – especially as midterm elections are already underway in primaries across the country.

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