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Arizona leaders react to President Biden’s first address to Congress

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28: U.S. President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol on April 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. On the eve of his 100th day in office, Biden was to speak about his plan to revive America's economy and health as it continues to recover from a devastating pandemic. He was scheduled to deliver his speech before 200 invited lawmakers and other government officials instead of the normal 1600 guests because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Jim Watson - POOL/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona leaders reacted Wednesday evening to President Joe Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress, with their opinions on the speech being mostly split along party lines.

Biden focused on the message that “America is rising anew” while pointing to the nation’s emergence from the pandemic as a vital moment to rebuild the U.S. economy and fundamentally transform roles the government plays in American life.

He used the prime-time address to make his pitch directly to Americans for his expansive — and expensive — vision to rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges, water pipes and other infrastructure, bolster public education and extend other benefits for a wide swath of Americans.

Arizona’s senior Democratic U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in a statement said she welcomed Biden’s continued focus on ending the COVID-19 pandemic and his commitment to “ensuring America wins the global competition with foreign competitors such as China.”

“Protecting jobs and expanding economic opportunities for everyday Americans are goals that unite all Americans,” Sinema said.

Fellow Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona echoed Sinema in welcoming Biden’s dedication to infrastructure and maintaining a competitive edge over China, but he was disappointed to see Biden didn’t put forth a plan during his first speech to fix the ongoing crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“While I share President Biden’s urgency in fixing our broken immigration system, what I didn’t hear tonight was a plan to address the immediate crisis at the border, and I will continue holding this administration accountable to deliver the resources and staffing necessary for a humane, orderly process as we work to improve border security, support local economies and fix our immigration system,” Kelly said.

Kelly wasn’t alone in wanting a plan to be discussed.

Republican Rep. Andy Biggs, who was on the House floor during the speech, told KTAR News 92.3 FM he would have liked to hear a reinstitution of the remain in Mexico policy among other potential fixes.

“He did not touch border security or the border crisis at all.”

Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran disagreed with Kelly and Biggs, saying there was “a lot of discussion on the border.”

“I thought he spent a good three or four minutes out of the entire thing, he wanted to show I think that he wants the border secure, he wants to use technology on the border, he wants to make sure that we have the Dreamers Act taken care of,” O’Halleran told KTAR News 92.3 FM, adding Biden’s comments on families and jobs were the topics that stood out to him.

Biden urged Congress to act on immigration reform and protection for Dreamers, which Democratic Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Greg Stanton agree with.

Arizona’s Democratic representatives also agreed with Biden on the need to focus on affordable health care, get people back to work and help America’s middle class.

Meanwhile, Arizona Republicans balked at the price tag of Biden’s vision.

An Arizona Democratic and Republican representative did agree on one thing Biden touched on – the need to get troops back home.

Biggs said he doubts the sincerity of Biden wanting to end participation in “forever wars” but hopes he’s being sincere.

“He provided some conditionality on the aspect but when he said that, and he wanted to get out of Afghanistan, I agree with that,” Biggs said. “We’ve been in Afghanistan 20 years and I have a bipartisan caucus that I formed with some of my Democrat friends on use of military force so when he said that, I was in total agreement of that.”

Biggs did say, however, there were probably a couple of other things that he agreed with as well but America’s resilience in the face of adversity and getting out of Afganistan were the topics of Biden’s that stood out.

The Associated Press and KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Martha Maurer and Debra Dale contributed to this report. 

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