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Star Advertiser: President Biden’s first speech to a joint session of Congress praised by Hawaii delegates

April 29, 2021

President Joe Biden’s first speech to a joint session of Congress was applauded by Hawaii’s congressional delegation.

His hour long speech on Wednesday covered a wide range of topics — from COVID-19 to jobs to foreign policy — that included detailing trillions in spending plans, which appeared to please locally elected members of Congress.

Biden’s American Families Plan and American Jobs Plan include $4 trillion in spending and tax cuts meant to improve jobs, infrastructure, education and child and family support.

He made his speech and laid out his plans as the U.S. tackles a global pandemic, political division and discrimination against historically marginalized populations — all of which reached a tipping point during the previous year — and acknowledged each of those issues and others.

U.S. Rep Ed Case said Biden’s address was the “right speech for the times. … When he talked at the beginning about choosing hope over fear, I thought that’s exactly what everyone needed to hear.”

For Hawaii, the most relevant part of the speech, Case said, was Biden’s intent to keep the U.S. military in the Indo-Pacific region to prevent a conflict with China.

“What China hopes to accomplish and how they hope to accomplish it — by essentially not playing by the rules — that was highly relevant to our part of the world,” Case said. “(Biden) spoke to the importance of America being a presence throughout the Indo-Pacific, whether that be a military presence or a human rights presence or humanitarian presence. That is critical, and that directly impacts us here in Hawaii.”

Biden had told President Xi Jinping that he welcomes competition with China but said he would “defend America’s interests.”

“I made absolutely clear that we will defend America’s interests across the board. America will stand up to unfair trade practices that hurt American workers and American industries,” Biden said in his speech. “I also told President Xi that I will maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific, just as we do with NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and Europe — not to start a conflict but to prevent one.”

The other delegates from Hawaii also weighed in on Biden’s speech with optimism.

“Just walked off the House floor and I can’t think of a single thing President Biden said tonight that I disagree with. What a relief,” U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono said via Twitter.

U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele, in a statement, said, “The American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan create opportunities where there were none and offer hope for a better future. In Hawai‘i that means more money for the ‘ohana, more food on the table for our keiki, and lower health care costs for our kupuna.”

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz placed an emphasis on Biden’s plan to address climate change.

“President Biden laid out a clear vision tonight — one that is focused on crushing the pandemic, tackling the climate crisis, and building a stronger, more resilient economy that everyone can benefit from,” Schatz said in a statement. “That means more shots in arms, bold climate action, big investments in clean energy, new jobs, and more resources to support American families. Helping those who are stretched thin is even more important in Hawai‘i, where our local economy has been hit hard by the pandemic."