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Biden addresses climate change, jobs and fentanyl crisis in State of the Union speech

President specifically mentioned droughts in the Southwest
President Joe Biden arrives and greets Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy of Calif., as Vice President Kamala Harris looks on, before Biden delivers his State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday at the Capitol in Washington. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images, Pool)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden addressed jobs, infrastructure and inflation during his State of the Union address Tuesday, touching on some key issues that directly impact Southwest Colorado.

Specifically, Biden mentioned the Inflation Reduction Act, saying it has positively impacted climate change in regards to forest fires. U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper have long supported the Inflation Reduction Act, which include provisions to address climate change.

“I’ve visited the devastating aftermaths of record floods and droughts, storms and wildfires,” Biden said, citing the effects from Arizona and New Mexico – “all the way up to the Canadian border.”

On the economy, Biden said “inflation has been a global problem because of the pandemic that disrupted supply chains and (Vladimir) Putin’s war that disrupted energy and food supplies.” But he touted the 12 million news jobs that have been created during his first two years in office.

In a news release, Bennet said more needs to be done to help economic conditions in Colorado. “Despite strong job numbers, Colorado’s families still struggle in an economy that has primarily benefited large corporations and the wealthiest ten percent,” he said.

Nationally, inflation on food and gas prices has fallen while “a record 10 million Americans applied to start a new small business” within the last two years, Biden said. Small businesses, a sector of high importance to former small-business owners Hickenlooper and U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, are critical components to the economies of Southwest Colorado.

Biden said he wanted to “rebuild the backbone of America’s middle class,” a cause that has been long advocated for by the senators and congresswoman in their work for working-class families in Colorado.

Throughout his speech, Biden emphasized the need for increased infrastructure, particularly high-speed internet, throughout the nation. This is a key issue on Native American reservations that has previously been advocated for by Bennet, Hickenlooper and Boebert with regard for the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes.

When speaking about the fentanyl crisis killing over 70,000 Americans each year, many House Republicans shouted “close the border!” including Boebert.

Gun violence, a topic that both senators and Boebert are vocal about, was addressed by Biden as he honored Tyre Nichols’ parents. The parents were greeted with an almost unanimous standing ovation. Biden promised to get law enforcement the training they need, provide mental health resources, enhanced background checks and advocate for red flag laws. He also honored Brandon Tsay who disarmed the gunman at the Monterey Park shooting in California.

“America is an incredible nation and we have the ability to build a better, stronger future for our kids,” Bennet said in a news release following Biden’s speech. “To get there, we have to work together to protect our democracy, deliver for the American West, and build an economy that grows for everyone.”

Sarah Mattalian is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at smattalian@durangoherald.com.

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