The State of the Union is Tuesday: Here's what you can expect from Joe Biden's speech
WASHINGTON – A divided Congress. An expected upcoming reelection announcement. Those are the twin forces that will shape President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday.
Delivering the second State of the Union of his presidency, Biden will amplify his message that Democrats and Republicans can work together.
But facing dim prospects for more major legislative wins, a looming showdown over the federal budget and a GOP House investigating his administration and family, Biden will tout his successes and lay out what more he wants to do if given the chance.
“To me, it sort of sets the stage for I think what’s going to be just a consequential battle this year between Joe Biden and House Republicans,” Robert Gibbs, who was President Barack Obama’s press secretary, said on the “Hacks on Tap” podcast.
The latest news to know
Full House: Biden will face a full House chamber – COVID-19 restrictions that have limited attendance are gone. Unlike last year, lawmakers are allowed to bring a guest.
Divided government: The newly divided government will be obvious to viewers. Instead of two fellow Democrats sitting behind Biden, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will be looking over Biden’s shoulder along with Vice President Kamala Harris.
Biden's approval: More voters disapproved of the job Biden is doing as president than approved in the most recent USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll, which was taken in early December.
Setting the stage for this year and beyond: The speech will begin to lay out the case Biden will make both in his two-year battle with House Republicans and for his likely reelection bid in 2024.
Before and after: In the week before the speech, Biden traveled to Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York to tout transportation and other projects funded by his major infrastructure package. Biden and his Cabinet members are expected to travel to at least 20 states in the days after the address to talk up the administration’s economic agenda. The president will be in Wisconsin on Wednesday and Florida on Thursday.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine
Biden devoted the first 11 minutes of last year’s hourlong address to supporting Ukraine, a rallying cry delivered just days after Russia’s invasion. The war probably will figure prominently this year as well. Biden will be speaking in the run-up to the one-year anniversary. And while Russia did not have the swift success many anticipated a year ago, the longer the fighting continues, the harder it will be for Biden to maintain support for Ukraine at home and abroad.
Many GOP House members are calling for greater scrutiny – or even a curtailment -- of U.S. involvement. That reflects eroding support among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents nationwide. The share of Republicans who say the U.S. gives too much aid to Ukraine has steadily increased since March, according to the Pew Research Center. Also, unlike at the start of the war, there’s now a wide partisan gap over whether Russia’s invasion of Ukraine poses a major threat to U.S. interests.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine: As Biden seeks to avoid wider war, delivery of M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine escalates conflict
Chinese spy balloon
The speech is a chance for Biden to respond to those who have criticized how he handled the suspected Chinese spy balloon that drifted over the United States last week – and to send a public message to China. Republicans have accused Biden of showing weakness by not shooting down the balloon sooner.
Tensions have been rising with China, which the U.S. considers its biggest strategic and economic competitor. The nations have clashed over Taiwan, technology, human rights, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and other disputes.
The Biden administration has been trying to stabilize the relationship, building what it’s called “guardrails” as it normalizes interaction. But one effort to do that – sending Secretary of State Antony Blinken to China – was postponed because of the balloon incident.
Sunday shows: Joe Biden's downed China spy balloon deepens political fight ahead of State of the Union
Federal spending and debt ceiling
Expect to hear a lot about the federal budget. The dispute between Biden and congressional Republicans over the federal deficit and whether budget cuts must be agreed to before the debt limit is raised will dominate the debate in Washington over the next few months.
Biden is expected to amplify his argument that Republicans are holding the economy hostage by not automatically agreeing to paying the bills the U.S. already owes. House Republicans don’t want to raise the debt limit without cutting future spending. Biden, who will lay out his budget plan March 9, has been challenging Republicans to specify what they want to cut. He has also been comparing his record on deficit reduction with Republicans’.
U.S. hits debt ceiling: Amid fears of debt default, Treasury begins 'extraordinary' measures
Call for bipartisanship in Washington
Facing a GOP-controlled House that can block his legislative agenda and is launching investigations into his family and administration, Biden is nonetheless likely to make a case for getting along. Always eager to burnish his bipartisan bona fides, Biden is expected to highlight issues he has worked on with Republicans over the past two years, including a major infrastructure package in 2021.
After the midterm elections, Biden said he was “ready to compromise with Republicans where it makes sense.” But he flatly ruled out fundamental changes to Social Security and Medicare, or compromising in other areas such as abortion rights, prescription drug costs and climate change.
A new Congress with new priorities: What to know about Speaker McCarthy and the fate of Biden's agenda
Biden called for immigration reform during last year’s State of the Union, telling lawmakers, “Let’s get it done once and for all.” It didn’t happen, so look for him to mention immigration again in this year’s address.
Just last month, Biden traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border, where he heard pleas for help in addressing the migrant crisis. The number of migrants crossing the border – some lawfully seeking asylum, others entering illegally – has risen dramatically during his first two years in office. Republicans blame the surge on Biden’s border policies. Last week, the GOP-led House Judiciary Committee opened the first in a series of hearings it is calling “Biden’s border crisis.”
Biden could use his speech to remind Americans of steps his administration has taken to the secure the border and to once again urge Congress to pass immigration reform.
A legal morass: As Biden hunts for answers to migrant crisis, his policies are increasingly tied up in court
Inflation and the economy
Biden celebrated when the government reported last month that inflation eased substantially for the third month in a row. “My economic plan is actually working,” he said. You can bet he'll emphasize that point again in Tuesday's address.
It’s not hard to see why. Fifty-four percent of Americans listed inflation and the economy as their No. 1 and No. 2 concerns in a USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll in December. Americans have been struggling for nearly two years through a historic spike in inflation that has driven up the price of food, housing and energy. Though inflation seems to be cooling, fears that the country could slip into recession this year persist. Despite those concerns, the Labor Department reported Friday that employers added a booming 517,000 jobs in January, suggesting to some economists that inflation could continue to decline even while employers keep adding jobs.
Coping with inflation: Even with a mild winter, more Americans struggle to pay their energy bills
Crime and police brutality
Biden devoted a substantial chunk of last year’s State of the Union to crime, gun control and policing, saying Americans should not have to choose “between safety and equal justice.” In the year since, a wave of mass shootings and high-profile cases involving allegations of police brutality has kept those issues in the public consciousness.
Biden can point to bipartisan gun control legislation that he signed into law last summer as an example of the steps taken in the past year to keep guns away from dangerous people. The law, approved in the aftermath of a mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, was the largest gun control package passed in 30 years.
Advocates are now pushing Congress to revisit federal police accountability legislation after the brutal beating death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee. Five Memphis police officers have been charged with second-degree murder and other crimes in connection to Nichols' death. Advocates also are urging Biden to again address police brutality in Tuesday’s speech. RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, the mother and stepfather of Nichols, are expected to attend the address.
Mareen Groppe and Michael Collins cover the White House. Follow Groppe on Twitter @mgroppe and Collins @mcollinsNEWS.
Editorial: Bad cops deserve to be exposed. Police must stop dodging information requests.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: State of the Union 2023: Biden to focus on war, immigration, inflation