Attending his first State of the Union address Tuesday, Utah Rep. Blake Moore appreciated President Joe Biden’s call to fund the police, strengthen the southern border and support veterans.

But the freshman Republican said he also found some of the president’s words in the hourlong speech hollow as the country deals with grave crises at home and abroad.

“His destructive responses have undermined America’s national power,” Moore said in a statement.

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Biden spent the first part of his first State of the Union speech on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin “badly miscalculated.” He pledged to impose more financial stress on Russia and promised to work to lessen the impact on Americans. 

While members of Utah’s all-Republican congressional delegation offered Biden scattered praise, they were mostly critical of his view on how the country is doing.

Utah Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said Biden spoke to the country Tuesday night but in reality was talking to a “narrow portion of his base because he’s losing it.”

“Instead of giving Americans a reason to have hope in the future, Biden can’t seem to get past the crises of his own making,” the senator said. “Look, that’s the absolute weakest possible position for a leader.”

Biden, he said, also doubled down on things that have failed in the past, including more government spending that “caused inflation to skyrocket.”

Moore said Biden ran on a message of unity and bipartisanship, but his “hyper-partisan” agenda has been out of step with even mainstream Democrats.

“Utahns are experiencing some of the worst inflation and price hikes in our nation’s history due to his harmful tax-and-spend agenda and costly energy policies,” he said. “These directly hurt hardworking Utahns when they go to the gas pump, check out at the grocery store, and heat their homes.”

In his speech, Biden said his plan to reduce inflation includes urging businesses to cut their costs, not wages. He called on manufacturers to make more products, such as cars and semiconductors, in America instead of relying on foreign supply chains.

How low did President Joe Biden’s approval rating go ahead of State of the Union address?
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., right, and Sen. Mitt Romney, R- Utah, arrive to hear President Joe Biden deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in Washington. | Al Drago, Associated Press

While the president acknowledged that inflation is crippling hardworking families, all of the new government spending will only worsen the problem, said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah. He attributed inflation, in large part, to the “totally unnecessary” COVID-19 relief package Democrats passed a year ago.

“We have got to get our spending under control,” Romney said. “We cannot spend more than we take in.”

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said Americans face an uncertain economy, record-high inflation, unconstitutional mandates, surging crime, illegal border crossings and foreign policy threats worldwide.

“Tonight, President Biden rejected that reality,” he said. “The state of the union is stressed, and the American people cannot be jawboned into believing otherwise.”

Still, Stewart said he has faith in the country’s fundamental values.

Robust growth in the economy and America’s role in the world will not come from Washington, D.C., he said.

“We must understand and proudly embrace that only in the homes, workplaces and communities of the American people can we chart a new course toward a nation renewed, stronger, freer and more secure,” Stewart said.

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Moore said that while the president talked about America’s strength on the global stage, his policies have unnecessarily abdicated global leadership.

“Late August marked one of America’s darkest chapters as we lost 13 service members due to Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan,” he said. “Both Utah and our nation continue to mourn the death of Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover.”

The world is watching Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine, he said. “Parallel to the invasion of Crimea in 2014, the world is reminded of what Vladimir Putin is capable of when the White House projects weakness and division instead of unity and power,” Moore said.

Moore said the devastating situation in Ukraine has brought unity amid tragedy, and that he continues to be inspired by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people’s resiliency and strength.

Romney said Biden successfully brought together U.S. allies to coordinate a unified and powerful response to Putin’s actions. But he had hoped to hear the president address investment in the military and ways to strengthen national defense.

“With the nefarious actions of Russia and Putin, and the rising threat of China, it’s critical that the U.S. remain the world’s top military,” he said.

Romney noted that Biden mentioned China only twice in his speech.

“Yes, Russia is the problem of today. But we must not forget that China is operating in the background and remains the problem of tomorrow,” he said.

Rep. John Curtis said that he was surrounded in the House chamber by fellow lawmakers, judges, military leaders and Biden administration officials.

“Each of us who were there tonight will take away different messages, but for me the most important is showing unity in fighting evil around the world, and especially Putin,” he said. “Together, we must have our respectful and constructive policy debates at home, but we will always unite to stop those who oppose freedom and our American values.”

Biden spent the first 10 or 12 minutes of his speech addressing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“He thought the West and NATO wouldn’t respond. And he thought he could divide us at home. Putin was wrong. We were ready,” the president said.

Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, also attending his first State of the Union address, took issue with Biden’s claim that the U.S. was ready.

As innocent men, women and children fight for their lives in the streets of Ukraine, Americans know the truth, he said.

“This administration unleashed a failed foreign policy strategy that only enabled the evil that is Vladimir Putin,” Owens said in a statement.

Owens urged Biden to impose tighter sanctions on Russia, supply more aid to Ukraine, and unlock the full power of American energy independence. 

“Despite what we heard tonight, the real state of our union is this: Skyrocketing inflation, rising crime, a humanitarian crisis and security threat at our southern border, supply chain gridlock, unconstitutional government overreach, a growing national debt, and weakness on the world stage,” Owens said.

Romney said the bipartisan infrastructure bill is evidence of the good that can come for our country when Republicans and Democrats work together. He said he was pleased to hear Biden outline areas for bipartisan cooperation and that he hopes they can come together to tackle inflation, family policies like the child tax credit, and shoring up American energy resources.

Those areas Biden mentioned in his speech are beating the opioid epidemic, taking on mental health, supporting veterans and ending cancer.