President Joe Biden called US democracy "unbowed" and pledged to work with the opposition party on Tuesday in a State of the Union speech that served as an olive branch to skeptical Republicans and a blueprint for his 2024 re-election bid.
In his first address to a joint session of Congress since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in January, Biden cited progress in a post-pandemic economy and stressed that a bitterly divided Congress could overcome its differences.
"We’re often told that Democrats and Republicans can’t work together. But over the past two years, we proved the cynics and the naysayers wrong," said Biden, a Democrat. "To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together and find consensus on important things in this Congress as well."
Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, sat behind Biden for the address for the first time. “Mr Speaker, I don’t want to ruin your reputation, but I look forward to working with you," Biden said, drawing laughs.
One test of that challenge will be the White House push to raise the US$31.4 trillion debt ceiling, which must be lifted in the coming months to avoid a default. The White House has said Biden will not negotiate over that necessity; Republicans want spending cuts in exchange for their support.
Seeking to project optimism ahead of a 2024 presidential campaign, Biden said the economy was benefiting from 12 million new jobs, Covid-19 no longer controls American lives, and US democracy remains intact despite facing its biggest threat since the Civil War.
"Today, though bruised, our democracy remains unbowed and unbroken," he said.
Biden also said the US economy is better positioned to grow "than any country on Earth," despite disruptions from Covid-19 and Russian President Vladimir Putin's military campaign in Ukraine.
"The pandemic disrupted our supply chains and Putin's unfair and brutal war in Ukraine disrupted energy supplies as well as food supplies," Biden said.
"But we're better positioned than any country on Earth right now." (Reuters/AFP)