President Joe Biden gave his State of the Union address Tuesday night, hitting on topics from Ukraine to police funding to the elements of his stalled “Build Back Better” legislation. Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley discussed Biden’s remarks with GBH’s Judie Yuill Wednesday. What follows is a lightly edited transcript.

Judie Yuill: The crisis in Ukraine is on everybody's minds right now, so let's start there. Are you satisfied with how President Biden addressed the Russian invasion Tuesday night, and how he's handling it overall?

Rep. Ayanna Pressley: Yes, I was really encouraged by President Biden's remarks on Ukraine. He doubled down on his commitment to ongoing diplomacy and to keep U.S. troops out of Ukraine.

Yuill: There are calls from some for him to do more, or to be more aggressive with some of his actions. Do you agree with that?

Pressley: Well, personally, I continue to oppose further broad-based sanctions, because more broad-based sanctions will punish innocent Russian civilians that are risking their lives and taking to the streets, in fact, in opposition to Putin's aggression and this violation of international law. So I think what's important is that we continue to center the people on the ground most directly impacted by this invasion. We have to avoid further loss of life, and we need to treat this for what it is, and that's a humanitarian crisis. I think in that vein, in the same way that I called for a lifting of the refugee cap for Afghans, we should be doing the same for Ukrainians. In the same way that I called for humanitarian parole for Haitian migrants, and for there to not be unjust deportations of them back to a region that is unstable, I'm calling for those same protections for Ukrainians.

Yuill: In his State of the Union address, President Biden made a strong call to preserve police funding, and he pushed back against calls from some quarters to limit the money that goes to police departments. How did that sit with you?

Pressley: Given the full breadth of the president's State of the Union address, I would say there are many things that we agree on: the need to invest in child care, lower the cost of prescription drugs, paid medical leave and so many other issues. But on this one, we just simply don't see eye to eye on this issue. Black and brown folks have experienced historic underinvestment and divestment, [and been] criminalized for simply surviving resulting in mass incarceration. So what we have to do is invest in our communities and ensure that folks have the basic resources [and] needs met to survive, to be safe, to thrive: healthcare, safe housing, safe water, safe air. We have to take a health-centered approach to public safety and invest in resources that will keep people safe in every way, not more police.

"We can't talk about the pandemic laying bare all these inequities and disparities and racial injustices, and then attempt to return to a pre-COVID status quo. That was insufficient to begin with."

Yuill: It doesn't seem as though there's a move in Congress to necessarily make that happen. Is there a way forward?

Pressley: As we continue, we have yet to pass a budget, and in earnest, I continue to fight for those investments which support the holistic health of community. Very often, violence is a byproduct of poverty. We find ourselves in a global pandemic, we are just starting to slowly recover from this pandemic-induced recession, and so families have experienced unprecedented economic hardship. And again, that can also often result in survivalist behavior that is then criminalized. So I'm just focused on fighting for those investments for Massachusetts’ 7th congressional district. This is one of the most unequal districts in the country, the most unequal in our delegation. I think if we support the holistic health of community, the stabilization of families, that is what's in the best interests of our public safety.

Yuill: What else stood out to you in the president's speech last night?

Pressley: The fact that the Build Back Better Act was not advanced, that agenda — which is the people's agenda — I really appreciate that he lifted up so many of those policies. These are not nice to have, these are must-haves. Massachusetts has the second-highest cost of child care in the country, ranging from $17,000 to $21,000 per child per year. That's the equivalent of a state college tuition. And so the fact that he lifted up these policies and these investments lets me know that he's not conceding defeat on these things, that he's not willing to leave 85% of his agenda on the table.

And that agenda is the people's agenda. These are things we've been fighting deliver for a long time, and we're not giving up, and the need is urgent. We have to do exactly what that act states: build back better. We can't talk about the pandemic laying bare all these inequities and disparities and racial injustices, and then attempt to return to a pre-COVID status quo. That was insufficient to begin with. So I certainly appreciated him enumerating those things which I've already spoken to.

In terms of what I thought was missing or what I would have liked to have heard more of: I serve on the Financial Services Committee, and on that committee we tackle everything from banking deserts, being unbanked, underbanked, housing, homelessness, student debt, consumer protection. So these are the issues I'm most focused on, especially in a district that is the most unequal in our delegation, and I would have liked to have heard more from him about the affordable housing crisis. I mean, there was no mention of it. No mention of crushing student debt. That's a nearly $2 trillion crisis.

And then, finally, I would have liked to have heard more about the need to close the racial wealth gap and why we need to be focused on a growing Black homeownership, which is the lowest today that it's been in six decades. So all things considered, I feel he met the moment, but these are the pieces that I felt were missing or what I would have liked to have heard.

Yuill: The president's State of the Union was followed, as usual, by rebuttals. But three came from members of his own party, including your fellow member of the so-called “squad,” Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. Do you worry about what message that sends in terms of party unity, especially when the Democrats have struggled to pass the president's “Build Back Better” legislation and voting rights protections?

Pressley: Well, the party is unified, and if people listen closely to the response from Rep. Colin Allred from Texas with the Congressional Black Caucus, the response by Rep. Rashida Tlaib from Michigan as part of the Working Families Party, which has been a tradition for some three-plus years, and then the other that was offered, there is unity here. I think that those responses were really to lift up the same successes and things that the president touted in terms of historic investment in physical infrastructure, the impact of the American Rescue Plan, the impact of the child tax credit.

I think the point of these responses are the same of the State of the Union, which is to take stock of those collective victories, but to fortify ourselves for the fights ahead. And so we're certainly unified in fighting for the people, and I think the range of issues that President Biden spoke to, Rep. Tlaib, Rep. Allred and others, enumerates that. We're focused on the people.