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GOP State of the Union response: Iowa governor says enough is enough

Reynolds outlined a lengthy list of GOP criticisms, arguing that reckless government spending has triggered inflation, that Democrats have mishandled the pandemic by imposing overly restrictive mandates and that Biden has projected weakness on the world stage.

“Instead of moving America forward, it feels like President Biden and his party have sent us back in time,” Reynolds said.

On foreign policy, the Iowa Republican called the US withdrawal from Afghanistan under Biden’s watch “disastrous.” Referencing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Reynolds called for unity and solidarity with Ukraine, but argued, “we shouldn’t ignore what happened in the run-up to Putin’s invasion.”

“Weakness on the world stage has a cost, and the President’s approach to foreign policy has consistently been too little too late,” she said.

“We can’t project strength abroad if we’re weak at home,” she said, charging that Biden and his party “have spent the last year either ignoring the issues facing Americans or making them worse.”

As she lamented high inflation and its impact on Americans, Reynolds said: “The Biden administration believes inflation is a ‘high class problem,’ I can tell you it’s an everybody problem.” Reynolds said the American people share the view that “enough is enough” on ambitious Democratic spending plans.

Reynolds also went after Democrats over their handling of the pandemic nationwide and cited her own record on the issue. The Iowa governor has made a name for herself as a proponent of limiting government mandates amid the pandemic and Republican congressional leaders praised her handling of Covid-19 when they announced she would deliver the GOP response.

“Republican governors faced the same Covid-19 virus head on, but we honored your freedoms and saw right away that lockdowns and school closures, they came with their own significant costs; that mandates weren’t the answer,” she said.

“What happened and is still happening to our children over the last two years is unconscionable: learning loss, isolation, anxiety, depression. In so many states, our kids have been left behind and many will never catch up,” she added.

Reynolds signed legislation into law last year that blocks mask mandates from being implemented in K-12 schools and prohibits cities and counties from requiring facial coverings in businesses. She also signed a bill into law last year that grants unemployment benefits to those who lose their jobs because they refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

The speech gave the Iowa governor a prominent national platform to speak to the country and offer up a critique of the Biden administration agenda. It comes as Republicans work to make their case to the American public ahead of pivotal midterm elections that will determine which party controls the House and Senate.

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It’s Washington tradition for the party locked out of power at the White House to pick a rising star within their ranks to give a rebuttal speech following the President’s annual State of the Union. The nationally televised speech serves as a way to counter-program and draw a contrast.

At the same time, the format — the rebuttal is typically delivered straight to a camera — can prove challenging and comes with a far less dynamic backdrop than the House chamber, where presidents deliver the State of the Union and are greeted by cheers and applause from members of their party.

Biden is confronting challenges on a number of fronts, including facing some of the lowest approval ratings of his presidency just months before the critical upcoming midterm elections.

The State of the Union also unfolded under the looming threat of the biggest military crisis in Europe since the Cold War as Russia continues its assault on Ukraine after launching an unprovoked attack on the nation.

While Democrats hope the State of the Union address will give Biden, and by extension their party, a boost, Republicans are looking to use the opportunity to spotlight what they see as the major flaws and weaknesses in the President’s agenda and his tenure to date.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

CNN’s Kate Sullivan, Veronica Stracqualursi and Shawna Mizelle contributed to this report.

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