HUNTER WOODALL - STAR TRIBUNE
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden's first State of the Union speech was met with a partisan mix of kudos and criticism from Minnesota's congressional delegation.
The president addressed the nation from the U.S. House chamber as Russia's invasion of Ukraine dominates international affairs. At the same time, the White House is facing inflation issues, the ongoing threat of COVID-19 and fallout from the president's domestic agenda stalling on Capitol Hill.
Biden's speech was well received by Democrats in Minnesota's delegation after a series of ups and downs for the president in recent months.
"This one was serious," DFL Rep. Betty McCollum said afterwards. "It was hopeful. It was thoughtful. It recognized that we still face a lot of challenges, but we've come through some challenges and we're the stronger for it."
But GOP members representing the state were quick to issue statements afterwards heavy with concerns.
"The state of our union is one of crises: an energy crisis, an inflation crisis, a border crisis, a drug overdose crisis, and a crime crisis, to name a few," GOP Rep. Pete Stauber, who represents northeast Minnesota, said in a statement.
Fellow GOP Rep. Tom Emmer of the 6th District said in a statement of his own that "tonight, President Biden reaffirmed that not only are his policies responsible for the numerous crises our nation is facing, but he has no real plan to fix them."
The stakes are high for Biden and Democrats, and Tuesday's speech may prove to be influential in determining what direction the party takes as this fall's midterm contests quickly approach.
While Biden touted the impact of a bipartisan infrastructure package and last year's pandemic relief plan, Democrats' inability to pass into law wide-ranging legislative priorities for families and children, climate spending, police reform and voting rights remain lingering failures.
In one notable moment, Biden said, "We should all agree the answer is not to defund the police, it's to fund the police." Public safety is primed to be a major campaign issue this fall.
"A number of us have been working for some time on somewhat of an agenda reset, if you will, that focused on getting us through COVID and addressing rising costs and crime," said Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips, who was enthusiastic about the speech. "And he did cover those tonight."
In another part of the speech that was cheered by Democratic Rep. Angie Craig, Biden called for capping the cost of insulin at $35 a month.
"Now the question is, from a legislative perspective, where does he focus," said Craig, who represents the 2nd, a swing district. "And I want to see him focus on lowering the costs for working families."
In the aftermath of the president's speech, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar noted on social media how some of what the president outlined aligned with her own priorities and bills.
"Now let's get them done," Klobuchar tweeted.
The early part of Biden's speech focusing on Ukraine, and actions against Russia drew some bipartisan attention. But GOP Rep. Michelle Fischbach, who represents western Minnesota, said in a statement that "this administration is trying to use the crisis in Ukraine, which of course will also cause energy prices to rise, to make us forget that Americans have been struggling for the last year."
Yet even as partisan differences came to light in comments after the speech, Democratic Sen Tina Smith took away a positive from what she saw from the House floor.
"I was really struck being in the chamber by the number of times that Republicans and Democrats stood together in support of what he was saying," Smith said. "Which I think is a sign that though our divisions are really deep, there still is so much that we can agree on."