Biden’s Fresh Pitch for Prosperity: Fund My Agenda, Dammit

Here are the big-ticket domestic items from his first State of the Union.

Shawn Thew/Pool/CNP/Zuma

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As I described earlier this evening, the first section of President Joe Biden’s speech tonight, in which he forcefully rebuked Vladimir Putin, generated some bipartisan support from a bitterly divided Congress. But as Biden moved to his domestic agenda, the chamber’s unusual unity began to splinter, sparking the kinds of raucous murmurings that are now familiar from our divided government.

Let’s quickly recap the economic and social priorities Biden laid out in his first State of the Union.

After suggesting a 15 percent minimum tax rate for corporations, to grumblings from Republicans, Biden called on Congress to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour—which it failed to do as part of the Covid relief package passed last year. In the same breath, he issued a call to extend the Child Tax Credit, garnering applause from most Democrats, but not from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), who has long refused to support the poverty-relieving measure without a work requirement. Manchin, who has been rumored to have considered leaving the Democratic Party, notably sat in the Republican section of the chamber, near moderate Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

Biden did not dedicate more than a few sentences to the push for voting rights, which animated Congress earlier this year but failed to gain traction in the Senate when Republicans and two Democrats voted against the Senate rules reform that would have made passage of the Freedom to Vote Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Act feasible. Instead, he focused on (ostensibly) less polarizing issues: beating the opioid epidemic; addressing mental health; supporting veterans, including by expanding health benefits to those suffering from nine respiratory cancers; and increasing congressional funding for cancer research.

Even as he called the House chamber a “sacred space,” Biden refrained from mentioning the January 6 attack on Congress by Trump supporters. “As hard as these times have been, I am more optimistic about America today than I have been my whole life,” he said, “because I see the future that is within our grasp. Because I know there is simply nothing beyond our capacity.”

But the lasting image of the night might very well be this Reuters photo of Republican lawmakers, Reps. Lauren Boebert (Colo.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), yelling at the president—highlighting just how fleeting moments of national unity have become.

 

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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