Five things Biden didn’t talk about in the State of the Union
President Biden avoided talking about some major topics during his first State of the Union address before a divided Congress on Tuesday.
Here are five things Biden didn’t include in his speech.
Student loan forgiveness
Biden didn’t explicitly mention his student loan forgiveness plan, which is held up in the courts because of multiple legal challenges.
The president gave a nod to the burden of student loan debt, saying his administration is “making progress by reducing student debt and increasing Pell Grants for working- and middle-class families.”
Biden rolled out a plan over the summer to give $10,000 in federal loan forgiveness for those with annual incomes less than $125,000. Pell Grant recipients could receive $20,000 in forgiveness under the same income threshold, a move applauded by progressives and student loan advocates.
But the Biden administration has not been able to execute the program while the Justice Department fights challenges in court, including one in Texas from a Trump-appointed federal judge who argued Biden has overstepped his power in the executive branch with the program.
Biden did not utter the name of his White House predecessor.
Biden rarely says former President Trump’s name and other White House officials have made it a point not to mention his name if they can help it.
He did allude to Trump in comments about the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and about Paul Pelosi, the husband of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) who was brutally attacked in his home in October.
“For the last few years our democracy has been threatened, attacked, and put at risk. Put to the test here, in this very room, on January 6th. And then, just a few months ago, unhinged by the big lie, an assailant unleashed political violence in the home of the then-Speaker of this House of Representatives. Using the very same language that insurrectionists who stalked these halls chanted on January 6th,” Biden said.
He also didn’t say Trump’s name in last year’s speech.
Chinese surveillance balloon
Biden did not explicitly mention the Chinese surveillance balloon that was shot down on Saturday, but gave a nod to the situation.
“But make no mistake: as we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country. And we did,” he said.
The White House was worried the controversy could overshadow the address after Biden faced criticism from Republicans and pressure from his own party to explain why the administration let the balloon fly over much of the U.S. before it was shot down.
Officials have defended waiting until the balloon was over the Atlantic Ocean in order to prevent injuries or destruction of property from falling debris.
Although Biden was heckled by some members of the newly-empowered House Republican majority, he didn’t address GOP investigations into him and his family.
Biden’s speech urged unity in some areas, but he also responded to the GOP jeers, including during a back-and-forth over his suggestion that GOP lawmakers want to make cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
House Republicans in recent days have ramped up their focus on investigating the finances and conduct of the president’s son, Hunter Biden.
His speech came one day before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee will hold a hearing featuring three former Twitter employees testifying about the platform’s decision to limit the spread of a New York Post story about Hunter Biden.
Iran and Afghanistan
Biden avoided talking about contentious foreign affairs issues regarding Iran and Afghanistan.
The president recently signaled an end to negotiations on the Iranian nuclear deal, following the Biden administration launching indirect talks with Iran in April 2021 to try to reverse then-President Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from the JCPOA.
Biden wasn’t expected to talk about Afghanistan, considering he didn’t address the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from the country in August 2021 in the 2022 State of the Union.
He did talk about some foreign affairs issues, notably the war in Ukraine and China. Members of both parties stood for Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., when Biden recognized her in the audience and Biden said that he has told Chinese President Xi that the U.S. seeks “competition, not conflict.”
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