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Fact-checking Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds' State of the Union rebuttal

VERIFY analyzed claims from Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds' response to President Joe Biden's first State of the Union address.

Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-Iowa) delivered the Republican response to President Joe Biden's State of the Union address on Tuesday.

In her 14-minute address, Reynolds criticized the Biden administration for rising inflation rates and the president's response to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. 

“Even before taking the oath of office, the president told us that he wanted to ‘make America respected around the world again and to unite us here at home.’ He's failed on both fronts,” Reynolds said.

The VERIFY team fact-checked claims from Reynolds' State of the Union rebuttal. Click or tap here for our fact-check of Biden's State of the Union address

THE CLAIM 

“They plowed ahead anyway, raising the price at the pump 50% and pushing inflation to a 40-year high.” – Gov. Reynolds

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, gas prices are 50% higher than when Biden took office and inflation is at a 40-year high.

WHAT WE FOUND

When Biden took office in January 2020, Gas Buddy and the EIA show the nationwide average price of a gallon of gas was $2.40. In February 2021, the most recent month available from the EIA, the nationwide average price of gas was $3.61 and on March 1, Gas Buddy estimated the nationwide average of gas at $3.63. This represents a 50% increase in gas prices than when Biden took office.

Inflation numbers are, generally, measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index. This is shown as a percentage of how much prices have risen in a given month compared to 12 months earlier. 

The Federal Reserve’s goal is to keep inflation at 2%.

The largest increase of the CPI was in April 1980 when prices were 14.6% higher than a year earlier. Price increases slowed over the next few years, hitting 6.9% in March 1982 before eventually becoming closer to the Fed’s goal for decades.

Prices then began quickly rising following the onset of the pandemic. In Jan. 2022, the latest month of BLS data available, inflation was 7.5%, which would be the highest in 40 years.

THE CLAIM

“Biden requires vaccines for Americans who want to work but not for migrants illegally crossing the border.” --Gov. Kim Reynolds 

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

   

This needs context.

This claim needs context. It’s true that the Biden administration does not require migrants in immigrant detention facilities to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The Biden administration did require vaccines for employees of large companies, but the Supreme Court later blocked that mandate.

WHAT WE FOUND

ICE says it offers COVID-19 vaccines to all individuals detained in its detention centers and encourages them to take the vaccine. This is similar to other federal detention policies, such as the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ policy to offer vaccinations to inmates who “wish to receive it.”

“While ICE cannot mandate individuals in detention consent to be vaccinated, all detention facilities are responsible for ensuring their ICE detainees are offered the COVID vaccine in accordance with state priorities and guidance,” a document from ICE reads

The World Health Organization says vaccine mandates aren’t truly “compulsory,” meaning they don’t physically force individuals to get vaccinated against their will. A government might require vaccination as a condition for work or school, but it isn’t holding anyone down to vaccinate them. Individuals still have options and even exemptions for declining vaccination. American vaccine mandates don’t apply to individuals, including migrants, outside of the schools or workplaces where mandates apply. 

The Biden administration was requiring employees at companies with 100 or more workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing. However, on Jan. 13, the Supreme Court blocked that federal vaccine mandate. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a regulatory arm of the Department of Labor, issued the vaccinate-or-test mandate as an emergency temporary standard in November 2021. This gave President Joe Biden’s administration the authority to enforce the requirement for large employers.

In an opinion on National Federation of Independent Businesses v. OSHA, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority wrote that the OSHA mandate overstepped its legal authority and is “otherwise unlawful.” That means the Biden administration can no longer enforce the vaccine mandate for employers with 100 or more workers.

THE CLAIM

"The Speaker of the House recently warned our Olympic athletes not to speak out against China.” -- Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-Iowa)

THE ANSWER 

   

This is true.

Yes, Speaker Pelosi did issue such a warning. She said she feared the athletes could face direct retribution from the Chinese government should athletes speak out while in Beijing. The warning came amidst a longer speech criticizing the Chinese government and urging more public condemnation of its human rights violations.

THE SOURCES

WHAT WE FOUND

On Feb. 3, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke at a hearing of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. That commission was created by Congress in 2000 to monitor and report on human rights in China, among other issues. Although its members are largely members of Congress, it is not a legislative body.

The Feb. 3 hearing was titled “The Beijing Olympics and the Faces of Repression,” and was held ahead of the Olympics for the purpose of “[giving] a platform to voices working on behalf of the abused and repressed in China.” 

One of the panelists was Pelosi. She spoke for roughly 12 minutes, criticizing the government of the People’s Republic of China, saying they were using the Olympics to “attempt to distract the world from a decades-long campaign of abuse and repression.” She also attacked the International Olympic Committee, saying they “chose to sell out on human rights in China.”

During those remarks, Pelosi also warned athletes not to provoke the Chinese government while in Beijing.

“I would say to our athletes: you’re there to compete. Do not risk incurring the anger of the Chinese government, because they are ruthless,” she said. “I know there is a temptation on the part of some to speak out while they are there. I respect that, but I also worry about what the Chinese government might do.”

 

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