Merkley Statement on State of the Union Address

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley released the following statement after President Joe Biden delivered his first State of the Union address:

“Tonight, President Biden addressed the nation at a moment of great domestic and international uncertainty, and spoke forcefully about a path forward to improve lives both at home and abroad.

“As Putin’s unprovoked and horrific war in Ukraine continues, President Biden delivered an unequivocal message: The U.S. does not give in to bullies, and the U.S. will continue to lead the free world in standing up against these horrors and exacting a devastating economic price for Russia’s aggression. People everywhere are paying attention to Putin’s crimes and taking to the streets—including in Russia, where ordinary citizens are courageously risking their own safety to protest. And the world, led by this administration, is responding in unprecedented fashion. I applaud the administration for its persistent, tireless diplomacy with our allies, which has resulted in an unequivocally unified global response to Russia’s aggression. We are now seeing the most punishing economic costs on Moscow and its leadership that have ever been brought to bear—and as the president said tonight, this is only the beginning of the price the Kremlin will pay. The world must continue isolating Russia, back up the phenomenal courage of the Ukrainians with military support, and step in to ease the humanitarian crisis Ukrainians are now suffering. Tragically, many ordinary Russians will also suffer greatly as a result of Putin’s tyranny and recklessness. Putin’s path of destruction will spare no one, and America must keep working hand in glove with our allies to ensure that freedom prevails over tyranny.

“We must also recognize that the battle between Putin’s army and Ukraine is one dramatic and tragic chapter in a larger struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. Ukrainians are dying for the right to decide their own fate, to shape their own government. That struggle is playing out in various ways across the globe, from Eastern Europe, to China, to here in the United States.

“Here at home, voting rights are under assault like at no time since the Jim Crow era. Like Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and other authoritarians, too many right-wing leaders in America act as if their hold on power is more important than the principle of government of, by, and for the people. In our republic, your vote should never depend on the color of your skin, where you live, or which party you support. It is incumbent on America’s leaders to stand up for our most sacred right—equal access to vote and have our vote counted—and President Biden was absolutely right to call out the urgency of protecting voting rights. This unfinished business remains the single most important thing we can do to safeguard American democracy for future generations.

“I also appreciate that President Biden emphasized that in the land of the free, the doors of opportunity should not be slammed shut because of who Americans are or whom they love. It is way past time to end the dark history of discrimination and begin a new era of equality and justice for our fellow LGBTQ Americans. Let’s make 2022 the year that we end LGBTQ discrimination and provide equality for every LGBTQ American.”

“There is other unfinished business this Congress must prioritize, too. The bipartisan infrastructure law and the American Rescue Plan have delivered important relief and investments to communities in Oregon and across our nation, and have created historic job creation and revived our economy from its worst slump since the Great Depression. Too many working families are still feeling the anxiety of economic uncertainty and rising prices, however. We must pass a revised version of Build Back Better that will address the huge challenges families face in affording child care, housing, and prescription drug prices, which will help dramatically lower costs for families at a time when inflation is challenging their buying power. We must also address the biggest risk to our future economy before it’s too late. Wildfires, heat waves, megastorms, and drought are already claiming lives and livelihoods, in Oregon and across the nation. Bold climate action cannot wait any longer, and the Senate must heed President Biden’s renewed call to put climate legislation on the floor of the Senate this spring.

“What makes a great nation great is not how it does in times of untroubled peace and prosperity, but how its leadership and its people face down challenges in moments of upheaval and turmoil. Today, we face one of those moments. The history books will remember 2022 as a pivotal year, hopefully one in which we built ourselves back from a pandemic, restored economic opportunity and prosperity for ordinary Americans at home, and helped rally the world to support Ukraine and notch a major milestone in the ongoing battle between democracy and authoritarianism worldwide. True strength isn’t beating your chest or punching down at those who have less than you. True strength is leading – mobilizing others to take on the most important fights, building for the long-term whether or not you get the credit now, showing respect and compassion for those who may have different experiences or priorities, and accepting with humility the will of the people. Tonight, Joe Biden demonstrated that strength, and showed the world how a true leader governs.”