State of the Union 2023: Biden addresses Tyre Nichols; local Republican leaders share rebuttals

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at...
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington, as Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., listen. (Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)(Jacquelyn Martin | AP)
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 11:03 PM CST

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - During his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden spoke of Memphis and Tyre Nichols amid a national push for police reform.

Nichols was killed after a Jan. 7 traffic stop in Memphis left him critically injured. Five Memphis police officers have since been fired and charged with Nichols’ murder, and more charges are expected for additional officers involved.

“Let’s commit ourselves to make the words of Tyre’s mother come true, something good must come from this,” Biden said.

In a statement, Senator Raumesh Akbari highlighted the Tennesseans who were guests of First Lady Jill Biden at the State of the Union, including the parents of Nichols, who were in attendance at the U.S. Capitol.

“Every single person has the right to feel safe from crime and violence in their community, especially from those who swore an oath to serve and protect us,” Akbari said. “I join President Biden tonight in urging Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

“No one knows better than RowVaughn and Rodney Wells that we need a real and lasting commitment to accountability and investments to ensure the safety of all Americans,” she continued.

Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09) took to Twitter Tuesday night, applauding Biden’s call for police reform and expressing gratitude for the president’s recognition of Nichols’ untimely death.

“As the Rep. from Memphis, I stand in strong support. I’m joined tonight by Pastor Turner—who led the service for Tyre Nichols—and Tyre’s parents who I recommended be invited by the White House,” Cohen said.

Biden exhorted Republicans over and again Tuesday night to work with him to “finish the job” of rebuilding the economy and uniting the nation as he delivered an address meant to reassure a country beset by pessimism and fraught political divisions.

Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivered the Republican Address to the Nation following Biden’s State of the Union.

“Being a mom to three young children taught me not to believe every story I hear,” she said. “So forgive me for not believing much of anything I heard tonight from President Biden. From out-of-control inflation and violent crime to the dangerous border crisis and threat from China, Biden and the Democrats have failed you.”

Sanders referred to Americans as “strong and resilient,” noting both her and her mother’s personal battles with cancer.

“The daughter she was told she’d never have was just sworn in as the new Governor of Arkansas and is speaking to you tonight,” she said.

Sanders also criticized Biden’s age, saying, “At 40, I’m the youngest governor in the country. At 80, he’s the oldest president in American history.”

She also critiqued the administration’s focus beyond the border, saying, “President Biden’s weakness puts our nation and the world at risk.”

“It’s time for a change. A New Generation of Republican leaders is stepping up… not to be caretakers of the status quo, but to be changemakers for the American people,” Sanders said. “We know not what the future holds, but we know who holds the future in His hands. And with God as our witness, we will show the world that America is still the place where freedom reigns and liberty will never die.”

Representative Rick Crawford (AR-01) applauded Sanders on her rebuttal and described the “rosy vision” Biden painted in his address as far from the reality Americans face.

“The median household has to earn $9,000 more annually than they did when Biden was inaugurated, just to break even with the same buying power today,” Crawford said. “The Administration is oblivious to the hurt their ‘transient’ inflation is still causing families. A better, more effective course was laid out tonight by Gov. Huckabee Sanders, my governor, and a great leader for our state.”

Representative John Rose (TN-06) critiqued Biden’s address as being “out of touch,” calling it a “continuation of the spin and misrepresentations that we’ve come to expect from the White House every week.”

“To boast about the so-called ‘progress’ under this administration as the nation faces historic inflation, rampant crime, an overwhelmed border, and numerous threats abroad tells us President Biden is completely out-of-touch with the Tennesseans I represent,” Rose continued. “The state of our union has certainly seen better days, but I will work every day to promote the policies that make our nation a freer and more prosperous country again.”

Representative David Kustoff (TN-08) also called Biden’s address “out of touch” with the needs of Tennesseans.

”President Biden’s speech this evening only proved what we already know —Washington Democrats are out of touch with the needs of West Tennessee and all Americans. In the last two years, Joe Biden’s policies have led to a struggling economy, a wide-open southern border, and record high inflation,” Kustoff said. “The new House Republican majority is working hard to fulfill our commitment to America and address these challenges.”

Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) said there are solid reasons why the American people are expressing dissatisfaction with their current situation — all linked to not feeling secure.

“There are solid reasons why more than 40 percent of Americans say they are worse off today than when President Biden took office, and why more than 70 percent of Americans believe the nation is on the wrong track,” Hyde-Smith said.  “Despite the president’s telling, I believe the concerns felt by many Mississippians and their fellow Americans are rooted in whether we feel secure—in our homes, in our communities, in our futures, and as a nation.”

Hyde-Smith blamed the president and his administration’s handling of national defense, border security, crime, energy, and the economy for the unease expressed by Americans.

Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) also reflected on the past two years of the Biden presidency and criticized the achievements of his term so far.

“On the day that Joe Biden walked into the Oval Office, inflation sat at 1.4%, border encounters were down, and our adversaries feared us,” said Senator Blackburn. “Two years later, inflation is at a 40-year high, our national debt has exceeded $31 trillion for the first time ever, 4.6 million immigrants have illegally crossed the southern border, and Chinese spy balloons are violating U.S. airspace. The Biden administration has intentionally implemented policies to further a destructive left-wing agenda, and the American people are paying the price.”

Senator John Boozman (R-Ark.) said in part that Biden’s policies have “failed” and that Arkansans still struggle to put food on the table.

“Whether it’s sky-high energy bills and gasoline prices, increasing costs at the grocery store or persistent inflated expenses for housing and other essentials – Arkansans are still struggling to make ends meet,” Boozman said. “President Biden’s policies have failed to make life more affordable or create confidence, which is why he must work with Congress to enact commonsense solutions that unleash American energy production, strengthen rural communities, secure our border and stand up to China.

“Ending the pain too many Americans are experiencing and protecting our economy and national security must be our top priorities, and I appreciated Gov. Sanders’ message encouraging Washington to get back to those basic principles,” Boozman said.

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