Biden vows “to protect” country in State of the Union speech, refers to China balloon

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By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON, Feb 7 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union address on Tuesday that he would cooperate with great power rival China, but vowed “to protect our country,” a reference to a Chinese spy balloon that traveled across America last week.

“I’m committed to work with China where we can advance American interests and benefit the world,” Biden said. “But make no mistake about it: as we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country. And we did.”

Beijing denied the balloon was an espionage device.

Biden had been expected to address competition with China, but his speechwriters would have added that remark after the balloon traversed the skies above the United States – dominating the news cycle – before a U.S. fighter jet shot it down over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who sat with other members of the cabinet in the House of Representatives as Biden spoke, canceled a planned trip to Beijing amid the uproar.

Republicans seized on the balloon incident to assail Biden’s decision, based on military advice, not to shoot it down sooner for fear debris could harm people on land.

Republicans, who took control of the House of Representatives last month, have pushed a hard line in dealings with Beijing, but it is one of the few truly bipartisan sentiments in the deeply divided U.S. Congress.

Biden touted legislation passed last year with strong support from both his fellow Democrats and Republicans that boosted the U.S. semiconductor industry, and promised more.

“I will make no apologies that we are investing to make America strong. Investing in American innovation, in industries that will define the future, that China intends to be dominating,” Biden said.

Democrats have joined Republicans in demanding more information about the balloon and the Biden administration’s policy toward the government in Beijing.

The White House has taken a more nuanced approach, seeking to tamp down tensions with China that flared in August when former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, visited Taiwan.

Pelosi’s visit prompted Beijing to conduct military drills near the Chinese-claimed island. Tensions could spike again if the new House speaker, Republican Kevin McCarthy, visits Taiwan as expected this year.

Seven weeks after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addressed lawmakers from the same podium, Biden also denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and touted U.S. support for the government in Kyiv.

Congress has approved more than $100 billion in aid and military assistance for Ukraine and partner nations since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

“Together we did what America always does at our best. We led. We united NATO. We built a global coalition,” Biden said, vowing to stand with Ukraine “as long as it takes.”

A few Republicans – led by those most closely aligned to former President Donald Trump – have questioned whether Washington should keep sending so much money to the government in Kyiv.

But most of the party – including its leaders and top members of national security committees in Congress – expect the money to continue. Biden’s comments about Ukraine were met with loud applause and cheers from both Republicans and Democrats.

US President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the US Capitol, in Washington, DC, USA, 07 February 2023. EPA-EFE/Jacquelyn Martin / POOL

Here are excerpts from the speech as written:


“The story of America is a story of progress and resilience…We are the only country that has emerged from every crisis stronger than when we entered it. That is what we are doing again.”

“Today, COVID no longer controls our lives. And two years ago, our democracy faced its greatest threat since the Civil War. Today, though bruised, our democracy remains unbowed and unbroken.”


“Two years ago our economy was reeling. As I stand here tonight, we have created a record 12 million new jobs – more jobs created in two years than any president has ever created in four years. Two years ago, COVID had shut down our businesses, closed our schools, and robbed us of so much.”

“My economic plan is about investing in places and people that have been forgotten. Amid the economic upheaval of the past four decades, too many people have been left behind or treated like they’re invisible.”

“That’s why we’re building an economy where no one is left behind. Jobs are coming back, pride is coming back because of the choices we made in the last two years. This is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America and make a real difference in your lives.”


“To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together in this new Congress. The people sent us a clear message. Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict, gets us nowhere.”

“And that’s always been my vision for the country: to restore the soul of the nation, to rebuild the backbone of America: the middle class, to unite the country. We’ve been sent here to finish the job!”

“Already, we’ve funded over 20,000 projects, including at major airports from Boston to Atlanta to Portland…I sincerely thank my Republican friends who voted for the law.

And to my Republican friends who voted against it but still ask to fund projects in their districts, don’t worry. I promised to be the president for all Americans.”


“Every day, millions need insulin to control their diabetes so they can stay alive. Insulin has been around for 100 years. It costs drug companies just $10 a vial to make. But, Big Pharma has been unfairly charging people hundreds of dollars – and making record profits. Not anymore…Let’s cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month for every American who needs it.”

“Big corporations aren’t just taking advantage of the tax code. They’re taking advantage of you, the American consumer.”


“We all want the same thing. Neighborhoods free of violence.

Law enforcement who earn the community’s trust. Our children to come home safely.”

“Equal protection under the law; that’s the covenant we have with each other in America…I know most cops are good, decent people. They risk their lives every time they put on that shield. But what happened to Tyre in Memphis happens too often.

We have to do better.”


“We united NATO and built a global coalition. We stood against (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s aggression. We stood with the Ukrainian people.

“Tonight, we are once again joined by Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States. She represents not just her nation, but the courage of her people. Ambassador, America is united in our support for your country. We will stand with you as long as it takes.”

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