Mar 2, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Ukrainian solidarity front and center at Biden's State of the Union

Ukrainian American Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) waits for the start of the State of the Union. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Splashes of yellow and blue are dotting the House chamber ahead of Biden’s State of the Union address as individual members of both parties signal their support of Ukraine through their fashion decisions.

What we're watching: Biden is expected to announce a decision to ban Russian-owned and -operated flights from entering American airspace, following similar moves by the European Union, the U.K. and Canada.

Inside the room: Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), Rep Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) are sporting yellow jackets, Axios' Sophia Cai reports.

  • Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), the sole member of Congress born in Ukraine, is wearing a blue jacket over a yellow dress.
  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) are donning yellow ties.

The big picture: President Biden will use tonight's State of the Union address to rally Americans against Russia's invasion of Ukraine — a real-time horror overshadowing his progress on COVID-19, inflation, his first Supreme Court nomination and the approaching midterms.

  • Mired in lousy approval numbers and saddled with a 50-50 Senate, Biden has spent most of his first 13 months in office responding to rather than driving domestic and international events. The speech is a chance for a reset.

Details: "Throughout our history, we’ve learned this lesson — when dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos. ... The costs and threats to America and the world keep rising," Biden will say, according to advance excerpts released by the White House.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin "thought the West and NATO wouldn’t respond" to the invasion launched last week. "He thought he could divide us here at home. ... Putin was wrong. We were ready."
  • Biden also will call for a reduction in foreign supply chains and to fight inflation with more U.S.-made cars and semiconductors and increased infrastructure spending.

Between the lines: A little more than a year into his presidency, Biden has been seriously weakened by the long-term health and economic implications of the pandemic.

  • He's also had to overcome competing factions in his own party, and the partisan divide stoked by former President Trump and the Jan. 6 attack.

What we're watching: Ukraine's ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, is a guest in first lady Jill Biden's viewing box for the speech.

  • Spartz said ahead of the speech that Putin's campaign is a genocide, predicted his offensive won't stop with Ukraine and said Biden isn't doing enough.
  • Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-Iowa) is slated to deliver the Republican response. But a handful of other responses were being lined up — by moderates, the Congressional Black Caucus, progressives and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).
  • Greene is under fire for appearing over the weekend at a white nationalist conference.
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