Biden’s State of the Union address will focus on reassurance

Rather than come up with new policy proposals, Biden is poised to offer Americans a reassuring assessment of the state of the nation at a time of economic uncertainty.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden stands ready to offer a reassuring assessment of the state of the nation rather than presenting flashy policy proposals as he delivers his second State of the Union address in a bid to quell pessimism in the country and Concerns about his own leadership.

His speech to a politically divided Congress comes Tuesday night as the nation struggles to understand the confusing cross-currents at home and abroad – economic uncertainty, a tiring war in Ukraine, growing tensions with China among them — and cautiously assesses Biden’s fitness a likely re-election bid.

According to a new poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, the president will take the floor at a time when just a quarter of adult Americans say things are moving in the right direction in the country . About three quarters say things are on the wrong track. And a majority of Democrats don’t want Biden to seek another term.

Biden will aim to confront those feelings head-on, aides said, while trying not to sound insensitive to Americans’ concerns.

Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, said Biden will “recognize and meet the American people where they are,” adding that their “economic fear is real.”

“I think the key message is: we have to keep moving forward, but people should feel optimistic,” he added.

CONTINUE READING: Here’s what you should know ahead of Biden’s State of the Union

Chapman University presidential historian Luke Niece said the closest parallel to Biden’s current circumstances may be the 1960s, when global uncertainty met domestic unrest. Biden, he said, has an opportunity to be a “reassuring presence” for the country.

“Usually we’re looking for an agenda: ‘Here’s what he’s up to.’ I don’t know if that’s really realistic,” said Nietner. “I think Americans’ expectations of what Congress will actually achieve are pretty low. And so right now I think that mood and tone and will help Americans feel better about their circumstances, I think they’ll go a long way.”

The setting for Biden’s speech will be markedly different from a year ago when Democratic stalwart Nancy Pelosi sat behind him as the speaker. She was replaced by Kevin McCarthy, Speaker of the GOP House of Representativesand it’s unclear what reception the troubled Republican will give the Democratic president.

With COVID-19 restrictions now lifted, the White House and lawmakers from both parties are inviting guests to convey political messages with their presence in the House chamber. The parents of Tire Nicholswho was badly beaten by police officers in Memphis and later died are among the expected spectators.

Biden is changing his tune after spending his first two years pushing through key bills like the bipartisan infrastructure package, a bill to boost high-tech manufacturing and climate legislation. With Republicans now in control of the House of Representatives, Biden is focused on implementing the massive legislation and making sure voters take credit for the improvements rather than developing big new initiatives.

It’s mostly out of necessity. Faced with a newly empowered GOP eager to undo many of his accomplishments, Biden vows to conduct a variety of investigations — including investigating the New discoveries of secret documents from his time as Vice President in his home and former office.

At the same time, Biden must find a way to work across the aisle to raise the federal debt limit by this summer and keep the government funded. Biden has insisted he will not negotiate meeting the country’s debt obligations; Republicans have also insisted that Biden must make concessions on spending.

On the eve of the president’s address, McCarthy called on Biden to come to the negotiating table with House Republicans on spending cuts under a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

“Mr. President, it is time to get to work,” McCarthy said in an address from the Capitol Speakers Balcony.

While hopes for large-scale bipartisanship are slim, Biden should reissue his 2022 appeal to Congress to get behind his “unity agenda” of action on the opioid epidemic, mental health, veterans’ health and cancer control deliver.

The speech comes days after Biden ordered the military to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon, which boldly flew over the country, captivating the nation and serving as a reminder of strained relations between the two world powers.

Last year’s address came just days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, and many in the West doubted Kyiv would withstand the onslaught. Over the past year, the US and other allies have sent tens of billions of dollars in military and economic aid to bolster Ukraine’s defenses. Now Biden must work—both at home and abroad—to maintain that coalition as the war drags on.

“The President will really want to reiterate what a significant achievement has already been made, and then reiterate how much more needs to be done, how we are committed to it, and how we will ask the US Congress on a bipartisan basis to help us out.” of this work,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Monday.

As COVID-19 has eased at home, Biden will turn his gaze to other national ills, including the deadly opioid epidemic, gun violence and police abuse.

The President spent much of the weekend through Monday reviewing draft speeches with aides at the Camp David Presidential Retreat in Maryland.

Senior White House Advisor Anita Dunn will preview the broad issues of Biden’s address to Democratic lawmakers throughout the day Tuesday, beginning with a breakfast with House Democrats on Capitol Hill.

McCarthy called on Biden to support Republican efforts to put the nation’s finances on a path to a balanced budget, which would require deep and politically unpopular cuts in federal spending that Biden and Democrats have vehemently opposed.

“We need to move towards a balanced budget and insist on real accountability for every dollar we spend,” McCarthy said.

He insisted that cuts to Medicare and Social Security, the popular health care and pension programs especially for older Americans, are “off the table” at every budget hearing. The GOP leader also said “defaulting on our debt is not an option.”

The White House has insisted Republicans cannot be trusted to protect the programs and has blasted Republicans for “threatening to actively spiral our economy with a default” by issuing terms to the set a debt limit. Biden’s State of the Union address will focus on reassurance

Laura Coffey

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