With a potential showdown 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’s no reason we can’t work together in this new Congress,” Biden plans to say, according to comments released by the White House. “People have sent us a clear message. Fight for fight, power for power, conflict for conflict, get us nowhere.
The comments are outside of a typical SOTU playbook, but they take on new resonance amid concerns that a prolonged standoff over the debt ceiling could unsettle markets and nosedive the economy.
Biden met with freshman House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) last week, as Republicans are demanding yet-to-be-determined spending cuts before raising the ceiling again. Democrats don’t want conditions attached to raising the debt limit as a way to pay for spending that has already been spent.
Much of Biden’s speech is expected to be devoted to the administration’s achievements, as Biden has been bolstered by recent blockbuster jobs reports.
“Jobs are coming back, pride is coming back because of the choices we’ve made over the last two years,” Biden plans to say, according to comments released by the White House. “It’s a blue-collar blueprint for rebuilding America and making a real difference in your life.”
He also plans to declare that “Covid no longer controls our lives,” and that democracy “remains unfettered and unbroken.” The latter is a reference to the attack on the Capitol on January 6th.
“The story of America is a story of progress and resilience,” Biden plans to say. “We are the only country that has come out of every crisis stronger than when we entered it. That’s what we’re doing again.”
Biden plans to talk about progress on a variety of issues that enjoy broad bipartisan support, such as cancer research, helping the elderly, mental health support and cracking down on fentanyl trafficking. He will also address social media platforms, calling for privacy and protection for children online as well as bans on advertising targeting children and young people. He also plans to place overall limits on the personal data that companies collect for targeted advertising. It could also refer to 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 Bono’s scheduled appearances address some of his signature issues, including HIV/AIDS and global poverty.
With expectations that he will run for re-election, Biden’s speech will be one of the best opportunities of the year to speak to a large TV audience, although viewership has declined in recent years.
Over the next few days, Biden will travel the country to drive home some of the speech’s themes, particularly the administration’s accomplishments.
POTUS’ scheduled to sit down with former PBS NewsHour Anchor Judy Woodruff during her trip to Wisconsin on Wednesday, while other members of the administration will fan out across the country for appearances and interviews. With more confirmation to come, Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled for an interview CBS Morning on Wednesday.
What is still unclear is whether Biden, as has been tradition, will do an interview with the Super Bowl’s host network as part of the pre-game coverage. But this year, that network is Fox, not exactly pro-Biden territory, and the network hasn’t announced its plans. A White House spokesman remained silent on the matter when asked during a press call today. But Fox News anchor Shannon Brim was in the midst of taking part in another tradition this afternoon: the president’s pre-Soto White House luncheon with network news anchors.
Biden’s address will be his first as president before a divided Congress, which will be very evident by the presence of McCarthy sitting behind him next to VP Harris. While there are indications that Biden will soften the rhetoric toward so-called “extreme MAGA Republicans,” pundits will examine the speech for lines that suggest how the president plans a reelection campaign.
What is less easy to predict is the ultimate impact of the State of the Union speech.
Most read like a laundry list of accomplishments and goals and fade into memory. However, a few produce memorable lines, such as George W. Bush’s use of the “axis of evil” to characterize Iraq, Iran and North Korea in 2002, or memorable moments, such as then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s very visual rip-off of Donald Trump’s speech. In 2020.
Pelosi has retired from leadership, but she will attend, and her husband, Paul Pelosi, who was brutally injured in the attack at their San Francisco home, is among First Lady Jill Biden’s guests. Pelosi herself will be interviewed on CNN’s post-speech coverage and on morning joe Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who is delivering the Republican response to the State of the Union, plans to attack the Biden administration for inflation and vigilantism.
According to prepared remarks, Sanders plans to tell the audience, “When you look at the consequences of their failures, the Biden administration seems more interested in fantasy than the hard realities that Americans face every day. Most Americans just want to live their lives in freedom and peace, But we’re caught in a left-wing culture war we didn’t start and never intended to fight.
“Every day, we are told that we must participate in their rituals, salute their flags, and worship their false idols…while big government colludes with Big Tech to take away the most important thing in America – your freedom of speech.”
At the Capitol, security cordons are back on the ground, 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 are out in full force to deliver food to various House and Senate offices. TV networks have placed cameras around Statuary Hall.
As they did for last month’s marathon speaker vote, viewers will get a clearer view of House chambers and individual members. This is because media cameras are again being allowed to cover the event, rather than the usual house controlled fixed cameras. But this time, Fox is the puller for SOTU, not C-SPAN, as the networks typically rotate duties.