MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Congressman Russell Fry (R-Horry County) told News13 on Wednesday that President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address failed to address the concerns of the American people.
“I think the president had an opportunity [Tuesday] to really talk about the issues the American people care about,” Fry said. “That’s the state of the economy. Obviously, locally that’s the Chinese spy balloon, the state of our border and record fentanyl. And I think on every single metric he really failed to deliver on those objectives.”
Fry claimed 40% of Americans are in a financially worse spot than they were two years ago.
“We really didn’t hear a lot from President Biden about the state of the economy and how he’s going to fix the issues. So I think in many respects, it was a pretty big failure on the part of the president to talk about the issues the American people care about.”
Fry accused Biden of gaslighting the American people.
“There’s really a big growing frustration not only amongst republicans but quietly amongst democrats too about where we are as a country,” Fry said. “We’re so worse off than we were just two years ago. People are frustrated and I certainly understand that because we’re hearing that from our voters back home.”
Biden in State of Union exhorts Congress: ‘Finish the job’
In his 73-minute speech, Biden sought to portray a nation dramatically improved from the one he took charge of two years ago: from a reeling economy to one prosperous with new jobs; from a crippled, pandemic-weary nation to one that has now reopened, and a democracy that has survived its biggest test since the Civil War.
“Folks, the story of America is a story of progress and resilience. Of always moving forward. Of never, ever, giving up,” Biden said. “It’s a story unique among all nations. We’re the only country that has emerged from every crisis we’ve ever entered stronger than when we got into it.”
“We’re not finished yet by any stretch of the imagination,” he declared.
The backdrop for the annual address was markedly different from the previous two years, with a Republican speaker now sitting expressionless behind Biden and newly empowered GOP lawmakers in the chamber sometimes shouting criticism of him and his administration.
As Biden, 80, prepares for a likely reelection bid, he sought to prove to a skeptical nation that his stewardship has delivered results both at home and abroad. He highlighted record job creation during his tenure as the country has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, and pointed to areas of bipartisan progress in his first two years in office, including on states’ vital infrastructure projects and high-tech manufacturing. And he said, “There is no reason we can’t work together and find consensus on important thing in this Congress as well.”
“The people sent us a clear message. Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict, gets us nowhere,” Biden said. “That’s always been my vision for the country: to restore the soul of the nation, to rebuild the backbone of America — the middle class — and unite the country.”
“We’ve been sent here to finish the job!”
But the challenges for Biden are many: economic uncertainty, a wearying war in Ukraine, growing tensions with China and more. Signs of past trauma at the Capitol, most notably the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, were unavoidable: A large fence encircled the complex, and lawmakers and those in attendance faced tighter-than-usual security.
From the start, the heightened partisan divisions were clear. Democrats — including Vice President Kamala Harris — jumped to applause as Biden began his speech. New Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, though he had greeted the president warmly when he entered the chamber, stayed in his seat.
The speech came as Biden has shifted his sights after spending his first two years pushing through major bills such as the bipartisan infrastructure package, legislation to promote high-tech manufacturing and climate measures. With Republicans now in control of the House, and even meeting the government’s fiscal obligations far from certain, Biden is turning his focus to implementing those massive laws and making sure voters credit him for the improvements.
Instead of flashy proposals, the president offered an encouraging assessment of the nation’s condition, declaring that two years after the Capitol attack, America’s democracy was “unbowed and unbroken.”
The president took to the House rostrum at a time when just a quarter of U.S. adults say things are headed in the right direction, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. About three-quarters say things are on the wrong track. And a majority of Democrats don’t want Biden to seek another term.
He sought to confront those sentiments head-on.
“You wonder whether the path even exists anymore for your children to get ahead without having to move away,” Biden said. “I get that. That’s why we’re building an economy where no one is left behind. Jobs are coming back, pride is coming back because of the choices we made in the last several years.”
Biden drew bipartisan applause when he praised most law enforcement officers as “good, decent, honorable people” but added that “when police officers or police departments violate the public’s trust, they must be held accountable.”
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus invited family members of those involved in police incidents, as they sought to press for action on police reform in the wake of Nichols’ death.
Biden, not known for his lofty oratory, appeared relaxed and confident as he delivered his address. He casually adlibbed jokes and rejoinders, seeming to feed off the responses from Democratic lawmakers who frequently stood with thunderous ovations and playfully engaging with Republican critics.
Addressing Republicans who voted against the big bipartisan infrastructure law, Biden said he’d still ensure their pet projects received federal support. “I promised to be the president for all Americans,” he said. “We’ll fund these projects. And I’ll see you at the ground-breaking.”
Occasional Republican heckling — some drawing hushes from McCarthy — reflected the newly empowered GOP that is itching to undo many of Biden’s achievements and vowing to pursue a multitude of investigations — including looking into the recent discoveries of classified documents from his time as vice president at his home and former office.
Though he pledged bipartisanship where possible, Biden also underscored the sharp tensions that exist: He discussed GOP efforts to repeal the Democrats’ 2022 climate change and healthcare law and their reluctance to increase the federal debt limit, the nation’s legal borrowing authority that must be raised later this year or risk default.
“Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans — some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset. I am not saying it’s a majority,” Biden said. As GOP lawmakers in the audience pushed back, Biden responded: “We’re not going to be moved into being threatened to default on the debt if we don’t respond.”
Still, some Republicans refused to back down, with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and others jumping to their feet, some yelling “Liar!”
The president answered back, “Stand up and show them: We will not cut Social Security! We will not cut Medicare!”
As Republicans continued to protest his accusations, he said, “We’ve got unanimity.”
While hopes for large-scale bipartisanship are slim, Biden reissued his 2022 appeal for Congress to get behind his “unity agenda” of actions to address the opioid epidemic, mental health, veterans’ health and cancer.
The speech came days after Biden ordered the military to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew brazenly across the country, captivating the nation and serving as a reminder of tense relations between the two global powers.
“Make no mistake: As we made clear last week, if China’s threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country,” Biden said. “And we did.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Kevin Accettulla is the digital executive producer at News13. Kevin is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He joined the News13 team in March 2020 after nearly two years at a sister station in Pennsylvania. Follow Kevin on Twitter and read more of his work here.