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 look likely to push for yet-to-be-determined spending cuts before raising the ceiling again.
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. He is scheduled to sit with the 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.
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 speech will be his first as president before a divided Congress, which will be evident by the presence of McCarthy sitting behind him next to Vice President Kamala 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. But a few produced memorable lines, such as the 2002 George W. Bush used the “axis of evil” to identify Iraq, Iran and North Korea, or memorable moments, such as then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s very visual rip-off of Donald Trump’s speech. 2020. Pelosi has retired from the leadership, but she will attend, and her husband, Paul Pelosi, was among the guests of First Lady Jill Biden, who was brutally injured in the attack at their San Francisco home. Pelosi herself will be interviewed on CNN’s post-speech coverage and on morning joe Wednesday morning.
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.