March 2, 2022 by Cara Chapman
PLATTSBURGH — U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) was glad to see Democrats and Republicans show solidarity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova during President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union Tuesday night.
Like other officials who wore accessories or clothing bearing the same colors as the Ukrainian flag, the congresswoman donned a blue and yellow pin and had a miniature Ukrainian flag she occasionally waved during the speech.
Though it was important for the world to see that display, Biden’s proposals do not go far enough to crack down on Russia, she told the Press-Republican.
“They do not address the catastrophe of not getting the weapons into the country on time, they did not address the issue of how we’re going to to completely cut off Russian energy imports and cripple Vladimir Putin and his economy by going after the energy sector.”
DETERRENCE, NATO MEMBERSHIP
Echoing prior comments, Stefanik said the way to go after the Russian energy sector is “unleashing American energy independence” through avenues like the Keystone XL pipeline, a project Biden canceled at the start of his term in January 2021.
The congresswoman argued that sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline — built with the intention of bringing gas from Russia to Germany, but that has since filed for bankruptcy and fired all its employees, Axios reported — should have occurred prior to the Russian invasion as a deterrence.
“The president’s talking about deterrence, but Ukrainians are getting slaughtered in the streets,” Stefanik said, pointing to emotional remarks given by Ukrainian-born U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Indiana) during the House GOP’s press conference Tuesday.
Like the Biden administration, Stefanik does not support U.S. boots on the ground, and she noted Ukraine is not asking for that either.
Asked if that ran counter to her statements supporting Ukraine’s entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — which commits member nations to treating an attack against one of them as an attack against all of them — the congresswoman said she had supported that move since her first term, specifically at a Rotary luncheon in Clinton County in 2015.
“I think, had Ukraine been a member of NATO, that would have been an effective deterrent against Russian aggression. I think it was a global failure and a failure of the NATO countries not to accept them into NATO.”
Once the current conflict is dealt with, Stefanik believes the global community needs to support both Ukraine’s admission into the European Union and “consideration about growing NATO to counter the Russian threat.”
She is concerned that China’s president, Xi Jinping, is watching the Russia-Ukraine conflict very closely, positing there was a parallel with how Russian President Vladimir Putin had watched the Afghanistan withdrawal.
“I’m very, very concerned that Xi is watching how the U.S. and the world responds to the war on Ukraine, and I’m very concerned about the future of Taiwan and what that means when you have an authoritarian regime, whether it’s in China or Russia, just commit genocide against a democracy, people who love freedom and love their independent culture.”
Stefanik said it was “unfortunate” that the State of the Union did not include strong leadership from Biden “in terms of understanding that his policies with unified far-left Democrat government have created a crisis in the country.”
She criticized mentions of trillions in more spending rather than reining that in.
On how to address inflation, the president referenced his Build Back Better plan and voiced support for getting away from reliance on foreign supply chains.
When it comes to manufacturing, Stefanik said there is a need to focus on North American manufacturing as a whole, noting the cross-border supply chain utilized by local manufacturers.
“In general, we need to have a much more robust North American manufacturing base and really make sure that our economic partnerships are with our allies and not adversaries. We can no longer rely on China, or Russia, mostly China on the manufacturing issues.”
DID NOT BOO
Biden threw a couple jabs at the Trump-era Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, saying the tax cut “benefitted the top 1% of Americans,” while his American Rescue Plan helped working people.
Those comments elicited boos, but Stefanik said she wasn’t one of them.
“I generally listen at the State of the Union, and I stand up and clap when I agree.”
The congresswoman said she disagrees with Biden’s proposed tax increases, and said the focus needs to be on cutting taxes and simplifying the tax code.
“That’s going to be really important and I think very supported by people of all political walks of life.”
On areas where she feels Republicans have the opportunity to work with the administration, Stefanik referenced the points Biden had laid out as his “Unity Agenda”: beating the opioid epidemic, taking on mental health, supporting veterans and ending “cancer as we know it.”
The congresswoman said she looked forward to the White House’s proposals on addressing cancer, and noted the long-held bipartisan support for combating the opioid epidemic, and past relief delivered.
But she contended there was more work to be done, including securing the southern border.
SPOKE ABOUT BORDER
As House Republican Conference chair, Stefanik was part of the Congressional Escort Committee who helped escort the president into the House Chamber.
She said she had the opportunity to visit briefly with Biden behind the House floor, during which she stressed the importance of reopening the U.S.-Canada border, mandate-free, for the North Country economy and how much pain the restrictions have caused for families and communities.
“It’s important for him to hear that directly from me,” Stefanik said.
Following Biden’s address, the congresswoman spoke with U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough about some bipartisan VA proposals soon to be introduced in the house.
“I’m hopeful on both of those issues we can make inroads for the district.”
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that the president’s address “was a reminder of the power and importance of democracy — at home and abroad.”
“President Biden has made clear his commitment to promoting the truth, defending our values and giving every person in this country the chance to succeed,” she said.
“His address reminded us of the unlimited potential the American people have to build a better future, no matter the challenges we face.
“I look forward to working with the president to continue to rebuild our economy and to deliver on his vision to make and manufacture more goods in America; to make those jobs well-paying, family-supporting jobs; and to offer every worker the paid leave they need to truly support their families. Together, we will make sure that the future is bright and that it is made in America.”
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