“It’s almost the 2-year anniversary of COVID” - Virginia lawmakers eye the economy as President delivers State of the Union address

Virginia lawmakers have different opinions on how the President should address a variety of economic challenges
Published: Mar. 1, 2022 at 10:38 AM EST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Virginia lawmakers are focused on the economy as President Joe Biden is set to deliver his first State of the Union address.

“Here’s the reality of that speech, it’s March 1, it’s almost the 2-year anniversary of COVID,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). He believes the President will focus a large part of his address on the pandemic.

“I think the suffering, the death, the illness, the economic dislocation have been staggering and we’re not over it yet,” said Kaine. Kaine also expressed hope as COVID-19 case numbers are falling.

“I think the first thing you’re going to hear the President talk about in that speech is just a candid assessment of how difficult the last two years have been. But I also think the President can say, ‘look, I think there’s an American comeback coming. We’re seeing strong job growth. We’re seeing strong wage growth. We’re seeing strong GDP growth. We’re also seeing the fourth factor inflation that we don’t like. Three trends are going in the right direction. One is not going in the right direction. So, we have to acknowledge that and we have to deal with that while celebrating the first three trends that are positive and keeping them in a positive direction,” he said.

A January report from the U.S. Department of Labor found the annual rate of inflation rose to 7.5%. That’s a 40-year high. The same January report found promising news on the job front as employers added 467,000 jobs that month. The agency also reports that employers have raised wages at the fastest rate in 15 years, but that inflation has trimmed real hourly earnings by 1.7%.

Kaine noted economic concerns are increasing as the international community responds to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I would say that the state of our union is challenged,” said Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.). “It is challenged from many different directions.”

Cline said in addition to inflation, the pandemic, and the conflict in Russia, the nation is also challenged by border issues and crime concerns within cities.

“You have a crisis related to inflation. Again, created by this administration, assisted by the pandemic, but made worse when we have an administration that cuts off pipelines, that could reduce the cost of gas, that could be making deals with other countries to improve our supply chain. But instead, they’re doubling down on things like Build Back Better, which would exacerbate the spending, exacerbate the inflation and make prices higher for hardworking families,” said Cline.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) agreed the state of the union is challenged yet, like Kaine, she expressed America has a bright future.

“For some people it feels a little bit further than for others,” she said. She added, “we’ve faced a horrible two years with the COVID-19 pandemic from the impact on kids and schools and families and small business owners to people across our community.”

Spanberger said she has spoken with many families in Virginia who have ‘harrowing’ stories of how they have been impacted by the pandemic as she said it has caused ‘ripple effects’ throughout communities.

“We’ve been separate and apart. We’ve been behind masks. And so the state of our union is one that needs some repair, needs some some TLC and needs frankly good, good legislation focused on creating opportunity, getting at some of the challenges of our supply chain, investing in our country, ensuring that we can compete with other nations, particularly China, that we can produce chips at home, that we can lower the cost of prescription drugs. That we can, you know, be proud in our ability to contend with the challenges that face us as a nation and as a people. So I’m hopeful, but we do have a path ahead of us that continues to present some challenges,” she said.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) said it is never good to bet against America on any issue as he remarked on the pandemic, Russia, and other challenges facing the nation.

“We’ve got enormous international concerns right now with Russia threatening Ukraine. We’ve got a rising China that we really have to grapple with. And there are things, for example, we’ve done in the Senate that would say that we ought to invest a lot more in research and development,” he said.

Warner expressed hope lawmakers would be able to work on a bipartisan basis on those issues, as well as economic issues including lowering the cost of childcare and tackling childhood education. He also expressed an interest in focusing more on climate change.

“You know, there’s a lot more of us, at least in the Senate, that actually do work together. The loud-mouths on either end of the extreme get a lot of the attention. But, there’s an awful lot of things that we are working together on a bipartisan basis and we ought to just frankly amplify that a little bit more,” he said.

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