Arizona lawmakers pan, praise Biden’s combative State of the Union address

President Joe Biden delivered a combative State of the Union address
Thursday that laid out his achievements and baited Republicans for not
doing more, a tone that did not sit well with Arizona’s GOP lawmakers.

Rep. Juan Ciscomani, R-Tucson, called it a “divisive” address that
sounded “more like a campaign speech than anything else,” noting that
Biden repeatedly targeted former President Donald Trump while glossing
over other issues.

“He (Biden) mentioned his predecessor more than anything that I heard
him say. So, he was obsessed with that, making comparisons, and quite
frankly, when you compare where we were as a nation … it isn’t even
close,” Ciscomani said.

Democrats, not surprisingly, praised the speech
both for its tone and for the agenda Biden laid out. Rep. Greg Stanton,
D-Phoenix, said he was pleased to hear Biden talk about “kitchen table
issues.”

“I was very pleased to hear him put forward a plan to lower the cost
of, especially, first-time home ownership, which is one of the major
issues facing us here in the United States of America,” Stanton said.
“We need to bring back the child tax credit, ease the burden on
middle-class taxpayers. That is a pocketbook issue as well.”

The 67-minute speech,
the last of Biden’s first term, was interrupted repeatedly by applause
from Democrats, as well as the occasional outburst from Republicans
upset with the president’s jabs at the GOP and at Trump.

“Is it really a surprise Biden is blaming the Republicans on the border crisis?” Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, asked in a social media post
Thursday. “Of course he doesn’t want to take accountability for halting
construction of the border wall, ending ‘Remain in Mexico,’ starting
catch-and-release, and more. He’s failed, and he knows it.”

Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Tucson, accused Republicans of being “fixated
on the southern border,” noting that a bipartisan immigration reform
bill in the Senate was killed by GOP lawmakers “for the sake of campaign
politics.”

He said that Biden’s tenure has been a success compared to four years
of Trump. But he also warned Biden against “pushing for Trump-era
immigration policies that have not yielded any positive results and only
worsened conditions at the border for families and individuals seeking
refuge in our country.

“Real immigration reform is needed, and it begins with providing the
necessary resources to localities like those in Southern Arizona that
are at the forefront of the situation,” Grijalva said in a prepared statement.

Border security was just one of the areas where Biden expressed a
desire to find bipartisan solutions, as he said the country faces “an
unprecedented moment in the history of the Union.”

In addition to championing his administration’s accomplishments
during the wide-ranging speech, Biden called for everything from an
assault-weapons ban to legislation to fight “shrink-flation,” or
manufacturers selling smaller portions for the same price.

He also pledged to restore the abortion rights that were lost when
the Supreme Court overturned its Roe v. Wade decision, and promised to
continue providing military assistance to Ukraine for its war against
Russia.

In the background of the policy debates were concerns over Biden’s
age – he is 81 now and would be 86 when he left office if he served a
full second term. But Stanton called Biden’s performance a “good,
passionate, energetic speech” that should help to dispel some of those
concerns.

“The speech itself was energetic. He was passionate. … He certainly delivered that tonight,” Stanton said.

He was particularly pleased to hear Biden mention the CHIPS and
Science Act, which Stanton said could benefit Arizona more than any
other state.

“We are the epicenter of semiconductor manufacturing, advanced
manufacturing in the United States of America. The CHIPS Act was a huge
win for this country, but particularly a strong win for the state of
Arizona,” Stanton said.

Ciscomani was struck by what was not mentioned in the speech,
particularly shocked that “I’m not sure if he even mentioned our
veterans.”

“Last year I remember walking away from this, trying to find
something that I could actually work with him on, and he mentioned
veterans, and my thought walking away was, ‘OK, well at least we could
probably do some work on veterans together,’” Ciscomani said. “But this
time he didn’t really focus on that at all.”

Ciscomani also said he did not think Biden focused enough on the
border and that, when he did, “He points a finger at other people and
doesn’t take responsibility for the crisis he created.”

Stanton disagreed. pointing out that Biden has tried to work across
the aisle to get laws passed on things like reducing pharmaceutical
prices.

“Right now we’re a very divided nation, and we need the occupant of
the White House, we need President Biden to try to bridge that gap, to
bring people together,” Stanton said. “When he talks about working to
continue to reduce pharmaceutical drug prices, that’s an issue that is
overwhelmingly popular with the American people.”

Despite what he characterized as a disappointing speech, Ciscomani
called himself a “glass-half-full kind of guy” and pledged to work in a
bipartisan fashion.

“In spite of the terrible speech last night that fell way short, I’m
still optimistic because I look at the people in my district,” Ciscomani
said. “I was sent up here to fix problems. That’s what I’m focused on
doing.”