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Hawai‘i leaders respond to President Biden’s third State of the Union

LIHU‘E — Several members of the Hawai‘i delegation were in attendance as President Joe Biden delivered his third state of the union address on Tuesday night.

At the midway point of his presidency, Biden emphasized the theme of “finishing the job” — healing a fractured nation recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and its lingering social and economic impacts.

Health care was a key focus of the president’s speech, as he called for new measures to support cancer research, boosting access to mental health resources, and extending the new $35 per month insulin price cap for Medicare recipients to everyone in the country.

“As a physician-governor, it was heartening to hear President Biden’s focus on health matters like ending cancer and addressing our nation’s mental health crisis,” said Gov. Josh Green, who attended the speech as an invited guest of U.S. Rep. Jill Tokuda.

Green is in Washington, D.C., for a meeting of the National Governors Association, and will visit with Biden during his trip.

“These are areas of concern which we really share, and I look forward to discussing them, the opioid epidemic and our nation’s homeless crisis, when I meet with him and his cabinet over the next several days,” he added.

Biden’s first term saw some legislative victories, like the climate and health care bill passed in 2022 known as the Inflation Reduction Act, and the $65 billion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, both of which Biden touted in his speech.

“We’re building an economy where no one is left behind,” said Biden. “Jobs are coming back, pride is coming back because of the choices we made in the last two years.”

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), who was in attendance, echoed Biden’s triumphant and optimistic view.

“Amid tough economic and political odds, we accomplished more than anyone imagined,” said Schatz.

“We grew jobs at a record pace, cut the cost of prescription drugs, enacted the biggest climate action in history, passed the first gun safety bill in a generation, protected marriage equality, and delivered billions in new funding for Hawai‘i, among other things,” Schatz said.

Despite these successes, Biden’s flagship policy, the Build Back Better initiative, was shut down when he was unable to draw in support of Republicans and Democratic holdout, Sen. Joe Manchin. His efforts at student loan reduction have also been stymied as opposition-initiated court cases put the program on pause.

With Republicans taking control of the House in the midterms, any further policy achievements will likely see stiff opposition.

In a Republican response to Biden’s speech, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders attacked Biden for pursuing “woke fantasies” during his administration.

“The dividing line in America is no longer right or left. The choice is between normal or crazy,” said Sanders, who came to prominence as former President Donald Trump’s press secretary.

She criticized Biden as weak on national security issues and called out big technology companies for limiting freedom of speech.

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), also in attendance, attacked Republicans, and emphasized work to be done.

“As the president made clear, though, our work is far from over,” said Hirono in a statement.

“We’ve got important work ahead to protect reproductive health care, advance equity for LGBTQ+ individuals, and end our country’s gun violence epidemic. ….With Republicans working to undermine our democracy, we must also pass voting rights legislation and reform our courts to be fair and objective, not driven by far-right ideological agendas.”

Biden has also been busy in the foreign policy arena during his first two years in office, where he led the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, ending the 20-year and more than $2 trillion occupation. He also oversaw the support of Ukraine in response to the ongoing Russian invasion, in which the nation has spent around $25 billion.

The speech came days after the U.S. military shot down a Chinese spy balloon off the South Carolina coast.

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Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-0329 or gscrimgeour@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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