Five things Biden didn’t talk about in State of the Union
President Biden noticeably didn’t mention some major topics in his first State of the Union address on Tuesday, leaving out five key hot-button issues.
Student loan debt, the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, former President Trump, the Jan. 6 insurrection, and the upcoming midterm elections were left out of the just over one-hour speech.
Here are five things Biden didn’t include in his address.
The president made no mention of canceling student loan debt, an issue that Democrats have been calling on him to address throughout his time in office.
Lawmakers have urged the president to provide any transparency on the issue as broad-based student loan forgiveness has gained support among Democratic leaders like Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Biden campaigned in 2020 on forgiving at least $10,000 in federal student loans per person, and progressives have called on him to step that number up to $50,00 per borrower.
In April, Biden requested a memo from the Department of Education to determine his authority to cancel student debt. Since then, the administration has not publicly announced if the memo is complete.
When asked about the topic, the White House has recently pointed to the federal student loan payments freeze, which Biden extended in January through the start of May. The freeze began through a moratorium enacted under then-President Trump in March 2020 and has been extended several times.
Biden received instant backlash during his address for not mentioning the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, which was a low point during the first year of his administration.
Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.), who is the first Green Beret to be elected to Congress and served multiple tours in Afghanistan, called the lack of a mention of the withdrawal a disgrace.
“What a disgraceful whitewash. 13 American Gold Star moms and thousands of Afghan allies deserve answers,” he said in a tweet, noting the 13 American service members killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport in August.
During the address, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) yelled out at Biden, accusing him of putting American troops in coffins. The extraordinary and shocking breach of decorum came as Biden was discussing how many American troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan developed cancer from exposure to toxic smoke from massive burn pits, including his late son who may have been affected by toxic burn pits.
“A cancer that would put them in a flag-draped coffin,” Biden said. “I know—”
“You put them in, 13 of them!” Boebert yelled out.
Biden has defended his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, despite criticism from Republicans and Democrats for how the exit was handled. Last month, he said he rejected the accounts and findings of an Army investigative report in which military officials reportedly criticized Biden administration officials for the withdrawal.
Biden didn’t utter the name of his predecessor.
The president very rarely directly calls out Trump by name in speeches, but tends to mention his predecessor. In a few areas on Tuesday, he alluded to Trump.
“Unlike the $2 trillion tax cut passed in the previous administration that benefitted the top 1 percent of Americans, the American Rescue Plan helped working people and left no one behind,” Biden said, criticizing Trump’s tax plan that passed in 2017.
He later said “we’re done talking about infrastructure weeks” when touting the bipartisan infrastructure law, which passed in November. “Infrastructure week” became a running joke in Washington from when Trump held a lackluster week of events for his trillion-dollar infrastructure proposal.
A main focus of Biden’s address was unity, and he proposed a “unity agenda” of four items he urged Congress to pass on a bipartisan basis: addressing the opioid epidemic, providing resources for children’s mental health, supporting veterans and ending cancer.
Biden address was held in the chamber where, just over a year ago, a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed to protest the certification of the results of the 2020 election. But he didn’t mention the events of Jan. 6, 2021, during the speech.
To mark the first anniversary of the insurrection, Biden gave an address in Statuary Hall and forcefully rebuked Trump for spreading a “web of lies.” He also did not mention Trump by name in those remarks, though referred to him throughout the speech.
The fencing around the U.S. Capitol, which was in place for months after the insurrection, was put back up ahead of the address on Tuesday. Up to 700 National Guard troops were also on standby to help local law enforcement in the event of an issue.
The fencing was also in place in case of a protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates for truck drivers, like those seen recently in Canada. But plans for the trucker convoy coming to Washington, D.C., around the State of the Union appeared to have fizzled out.
Just months away from the midterms, the president did not mention the upcoming election in his address.
Democrats face a steep climb to maintain their congressional majorities in this fall’s midterm elections, with Biden’s dismal approval ratings mostly in the low to mid-40s. Also, a new president’s party tends to suffer losses in midterm elections.
Biden on Tuesday spoke about inflation and his administration’s efforts to lower prices for Americans. Rising inflation has taken a toll on Biden’s approval ratings and poses a challenge for Democrats wanting to hold on to control of the House and Senate this year.
He also spoke at length about Russia’s invasion into Ukraine and coordinated steps the U.S. and allies to condemn Moscow and put in place sanctions. The deadly invasion could throw a wrench into the midterms as voters are likely to scrutinize Biden’s efforts to counter Russia’s aggression.