Arizona politicians react to Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech

Feb 7, 2023, 10:10 PM | Updated: Feb 8, 2023, 9:59 am
(L-R) Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and Sen. Todd Youg (R-IN) sit together du...
(L-R) Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and Sen. Todd Youg (R-IN) sit together during U.S. President Joe Biden's State of the Union address during a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on February 07, 2023 in Washington, DC. The speech marks Biden's first address to the new Republican-controlled House. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — President Joe Biden wrapped up his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, and politicians from Arizona responded with mixed reviews.

The state was never mentioned specifically, but prevalent issues such as the border, education, social security and the economy were.

Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly praised the president’s call for cooperation between the two parties after Biden highlighted bipartisan laws that passed under his watch, including on semiconductors and infrastructure.

“Tonight, I was glad to hear President Biden highlight our bipartisan CHIPS law that will create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs in Arizona, many of which won’t require a four-year degree,” Kelly said in a statement. “For years, Republicans and Democrats talked about bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States. We actually got it done.”

Kelly backed up the speech’s commitment to protecting social security and Medicare.

The senator also called on the government to tackle the border crisis and immigration.

Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema echoed the praise of Biden’s bipartisan message, noting infrastructure, marriage protection and semiconductors legislation.

On the other hand, Sinema criticized the speech for not mentioning the water crisis much of the Southwest is enduring caused by a 20-year drought.

The former Democrat, like Kelly, said the administration must get more serious about the border to keep Arizonans safe.

“The current border and immigration crisis places an undue burden on Arizona border communities and it’s time the federal government takes accountability and acts to strengthen security, keep Arizonans safe and ensure the fair and humane treatment of migrants,” Sinema said in a statement.

Biden spoke on recent actions he has taken to aid border protection, but his administration has been criticized for much of his presidency for record illegal crossings.

GOP Rep. David Schweikert told KTAR News 92.3 FM that he was glad to hear Biden talk so much about goals for fighting cancer, but he said the Ways and Means Committee has not heard from the administration on the subject. He said the same on social security and hopes that changes after the speech.

Schweikert also criticized Biden’s discussion of the border. Biden addressed means to combat the fentanyl crisis including the use of more technology to identify the narcotics, but Schweikert said that strategies are futile without locking down the border.

Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko responded to the address by saying the country is in a crisis, juxtaposing Biden’s positive outlook.

Lesko also focused on the border, but unlike Arizona’s senators, she criticized the president for pushing partisan candor.

“Our nation is facing a growing number of national security threats around the globe,” Lesko said in a statement. “Many of these crises have only gotten worse under the Biden Administration’s failed tenure. In his last State of the Union, President Biden promised to secure the border, yet the border is wide open with historic numbers of illegal migrant crossings. It is time for President Biden to put aside partisanship and work with House Republicans to restore safety, freedom and prosperity to Arizonans and Americans across our nation.”

On the other hand, Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego — who recently announced a run for senator — told KTAR News 92.3 FM the speech was strong and optimistic, noting that despite a few contentious moments and hecklers, most Republicans reacted respectfully from his vantage point.

He wanted to hear more on education, specifically since Arizona is struggling with a teacher retention issue.

But he felt Biden addressed the border thoroughly, saying its now up to Congress to act and pass reform.

Rep. Greg Stanton told KTAR News 92.3 FM he was pleased with the speech and its focus on legislative actions from the past year, including infrastructure and microchips.

Stanton, like Sinema, wanted to hear about the water crisis and said he wants the president to get more involved in the matter. Stanton commended the president’s comments on the border but said he wished Biden addressed the concerns last year so that the government would be further along in addressing the problem.

Republican Rep. Juan Ciscomani gave the GOP’s rebuttal in Spanish after the speech and criticized the administration for a lack of accountability. He blamed the administration for excess government spending, a lack of border security and not taking a harder stance on China after the suspected spy balloon last week.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Kinnerup contributed to this report.

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Arizona politicians react to Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech