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Biden vows ‘to protect’ US, challenges Republicans on debt

US President Joe Biden has said in his State of the Union address 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 on Tuesday. “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 US 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 US 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.

Biden also accused Republican lawmakers of seeking to hold the US economy “hostage” by demanding government spending cuts as a requirement for lifting the country’s debt limit and avoid defaulting on payments.

“Some of my Republican friends want to take the economy hostage — I get it — unless I agree to their economic plans,” Biden said during his State of the Union speech.

“Let’s commit here, tonight, that the full faith and credit of the United States of America will never, ever be questioned,” Biden added.

Biden touts US support for Ukraine

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

Congress has approved more than $100 billion in aid and
military assistance for Ukraine and partner nations since Russia
invaded Ukraine on February 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 Kiev.

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.

Exploiting children

Biden called on US lawmakers to restrict how social media lures children and collects their data, as he accused the companies of conducting a “for profit” experiment on the nation’s youth.

“We must finally hold social media companies accountable for the experiment they are running on our children for profit,” Biden said.

“And it’s time to pass bipartisan legislation to stop Big Tech from collecting personal data on kids and teenagers online, ban targeted advertising to children, and impose stricter limits on the personal data that companies collect on all of us.”

He also called on the US Congress to pass reforms to hold police accountable for abusive behavior, as well as to ban dangerous assault weapons “once and for all.”

“We can’t turn away,” Biden said, referring to Tyre Nichols, who died after being severely beaten by police — and whose parents were guests of honor for the State of the Union speech.

“Let’s come together and finish the job on police reform,” Biden said.

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