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Politicians react to President Biden’s first formal address to Congress

President Joe Biden addressed a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.
President Joe Biden addressed a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.Melina Mara/The Washington Post

President Biden delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, where he called on lawmakers to act on several major bills stalled in the narrowly divided Congress, including ones that help ensure equal pay for women, expand the ability of unions to organize, strengthen voting rights, reform the immigration system, and reform police practices in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.

The president’s sweeping and ambitious plan for America’s future was met with swift praise as well as pushback from lawmakers and leaders on both sides of the aisle.

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey said he was “very hopeful” in a video uploaded to Twitter late Wednesday, but lawmakers still had to continue to push to ensure the president’s plan “matches the magnitude of the problems, the challenges, in which we are facing in our country and on our planet.”

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“The president said he’s committed to fighting the climate crisis, he’s committed to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s, he’s committed to standing up for racial justice, economic justice, standing up for educational opportunities for everyone in our society,” Markey reflected. “Let’s just keep going. Let’s just keep fighting. We have to finish this job for our country.”

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren praised the president’s proposal to “make the rich pay their fair share and catch wealthy tax cheats.”

“I’m fighting for a #WealthTax, Real Corporate Profits Tax, and stronger IRS enforcement to pay for all the President’s plans with $2T left over,” Warren said in a tweet.

Massachusetts Congressman William Keating noted the presence of Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Biden’s historic address.

“President Biden made history tonight, not just for being the first United States President to address a joint session of Congress with the two most powerful women in the nation seated behind him, but for making a clear case that our nation must tackle these issues and more to build back better if we want to truly emerge and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Keating said in a statement.

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Massachusetts Representative Jim McGovern said he was “particularly grateful” that Biden’s American Families Plan included “robust policies and funding to end hunger in America.”

“I believe it is time to convene a White House conference on hunger to tackle this problem, and I look forward to working in the months ahead with the Biden-Harris Administration to achieve this important goal,” McGovern said in a statement.

Rhode Island Representative David Cicilline also applauded details of the president’s American Families Plan, noting it would make education more affordable and expand opportunity by providing access to free pre-K for three and four-year-olds, and making two years of community college free for all Americans.

Rhode Island Congressman Jim Langevin said it was “great” to hear mention of DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, in the president’s speech.

“DARPA scientists have been behind so many important discoveries - from mRNA vaccines to the Internet!” Langevin tweeted Wednesday.

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy praised the president’s remarks on gun violence.

“So proud of him and our movement,” Murphy tweeted. “The issue of guns doesn’t have to be a permanent political wedge issue. We can pass a bill that saves lives. I believe this and so does Joe Biden.”

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Arizona Senator Mark Kelly said he was hoping to hear more on the president’s plan to “address the immediate crisis at the border.” Kelly said he would continue holding the administration accountable to “deliver resources and staffing necessary for a humane, orderly process as we work to improve border security, support local economies, and fix our immigration system,” the senator said in a statement.

Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton criticized Biden’s remarks on China, saying he “did not meet the moment.”

“He missed an important opportunity to rally our nation against the greatest foreign threat to the United States,” Cotton said in a tweet.

The Republican senator further criticized the president, saying his agenda to raise taxes and open borders was “dead on arrival.”

In a statement, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski expressed “strong concern at the lack of bipartisanship shown in the first 100 days.” She singled out the administration’s opportunity “to help our oil and gas industry,” to help Alaska’s tourism industry by getting cruise ships “back in the water,” and that it would “be devastating if Alaska forgoes a strong salmon run because the visas are not in place to ensure a fully staffed workforce.”

Senator Ted Cruz called the president’s speech “boring, but radical.

“This makes Barack Obama look mild and moderate,” the Texas Republican told Fox News.

“[Biden] didn’t say we’re opening up small businesses, he didn’t say we’re getting people back to work, he didn’t say we’re getting kids back to school ... and he provided zero solution about the crisis at the border he caused,” Cruz critiqued.

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Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney said President Biden’s proposals were “bad for Wyoming and bad for America.”

“The proposals he talked about would result in growing the size and scope of the federal government while requiring hardworking taxpayers in our state and across the country to send more of their income to Washington, D.C.,” Cheney said in a statement. She continued that she would “fight back” against these plans.

Key moments from Biden’s first formal speech to Congress
President Biden addressed a joint session of Congress Wednesday night with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi behind him. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via AP)





Brittany Bowker can be reached at brittany.bowker@globe.com. Follower her on Twitter @brittbowker.