With a potential showdown looming over raising the debt ceiling, President Joe Biden plans to use part of his State of the Union speech as a call for unity.
“To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together in this new Congress,” Biden plans to say, according to remarks released by the White House. “The people sent us a clear message. Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict, gets us nowhere.”
The comments are out of a typical SOTU playbook, but they take on new resonance amid concerns that a protracted standoff over the debt limit could rattle markets and send the economy into a nosedive. Biden met with new-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) last week, as Republicans look likely to demand spending cuts, as yet undefined, before raising the ceiling again.
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Much of Biden’s speech is expected to be devoted to the administration’s accomplishments, as Biden is bolstered by a recent blockbuster jobs report.
“Jobs are coming back, pride is coming back because of the choices we made in the last two years,” Biden plans to say, according to remarks released by the White House. “This is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America and make a real difference in your lives.”
He also plans to declare that “Covid no longer controls our lives,” and that democracy “remains unbowed and unbroken.” The latter is a reference to the January 6th attack on the Capitol.
“The story of America is a story of progress and resilience,” Biden plans to say. “We are the only country that has emerged from every crisis stronger than when we entered it. That is what we are doing again.”
Biden also plans to talk about progress on an array of issues that enjoy wide bipartisan support, like cancer research, veterans’ support, mental health assistance and cracking down on fentanyl trafficking. He also will address social media platforms, calling for protections for privacy and safety for children online as well as a ban on advertising targeting kids and young people. He also plans to call for limits overall on the personal data that companies collect for targeted advertising. There also could be mention of Biden’s proposal unveiled last week to curb so-called “junk fees,” including concert ticket surcharges and cable, TV and internet early cancellation fees. And the scheduled presence of Bono suggests a reference to some of his signature issues, including HIV/AIDS and global poverty.
With expectations that he will run for re-election, Biden’s address will be one of his best opportunities of the year to speak to a large TV audience, albeit viewership has waned in recent years. In the next couple of days, Biden will travel the country to drive home some of the speech themes, particularly the administration’s accomplishments. He’s scheduled to sit down with former PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff on Wednesday during his trip to Wisconsin, while other members of the administration will fan out across the country for appearances and interviews. Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled for an interview on CBS Mornings on Wednesday.
What’s so far unclear is whether Biden will, as has been tradition, do a sit down interview with the host network of the Super Bowl as part of pre-game coverage. But this year, that network is Fox, not exactly pro-Biden territory, and the network has not announced its plans. A White House spokesman was mum about it when asked during a press call earlier today. But Fox News anchor Shannon Bream was among those taking part in another tradition this afternoon: The president’s pre-SOTU White House lunch with network news anchors.
Biden’s speech will be his first as president before a divided Congress, something that will be very much evident with the presence of McCarthy sitting behind him, next to Vice President Kamala Harris. While there are indications that Biden will soften rhetoric toward so-called “extreme MAGA Republicans,” pundits will be examining the speech for lines that suggest how the president plans to frame a reelection campaign.
What’s less easy to predict is the ultimate impact of State of the Union speeches themselves. Most read like laundry lists of accomplishments and goals. and fade into memory. But a few produce memorable lines, like George W. Bush’s use of “axis of evil” in 2002 to characterize Iraq, Iran and North Korea, or memorable moments, like then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s very visual tearing up of Donald Trump’s address in 2020. Pelosi has retired from leadership, but she will be present, and her husband, Paul Pelosi, brutally injured in an attack on their San Francisco home, is among the guests of First Lady Jill Biden. Pelosi herself will be interviewed on CNN’s post-speech coverage and on Morning Joe on Wednesday morning.
At the Capitol, security fencing has returned to the grounds, a legacy of the January 6, 2021 attack on the complex. Inside, there is a heightened security presence, as there is for any SOTU, while caterers have been out in full force to provide meals at various House and Senate offices. TV networks have set up cameras surrounding Statuary Hall.
As they did for last month’s marathon speaker vote, viewers will get a more candid view of the House chamber and individual members. That’s because media cameras again are being allowed to cover the event, rather than the typical House controlled stationary cameras. But this time around, Fox is the pooler for the SOTU, not C-SPAN, as networks typically rotate duty.
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