Biden to tout economic wins
Poll shows vast majority of Americans don’t share in president’s optimism
— President Joe Biden Washington will use his second State of the Union address on Tuesday to remind Americans of how their lives have been improved over his first two years in office, as he tries to confront pessimism in the country and navigate the tricky politics of a newly divided Washington.
Rather than laying out major new policy proposals, Biden was expected to devote much of his speech to highlighting his efforts over the past two years to create jobs, fight inflation and improve the nation’s infrastructure. The speech comes as Biden is honing his pitch to voters ahead of his expected announcement in the next few months that he will seek another term in office despite voter frustrations about the direction of the nation.
“Next week, I’ll be reporting on the state of the Union,” Biden said Friday after a stronger-than-expected jobs report that saw the unemployment rate drop to the lowest level in more than 53 years. “But today, I’m happy to report that the state of the Union and the state of our economy is strong.”
Biden’s remarks from the House rostrum will take place in a sharply different context from a year ago. Republicans now control the chamber, rendering it unlikely that any significant legislation reaches Biden’s desk. The newly empowered GOP is itching to undo many of Biden’s achievements and raising the specter of persistent investigations — including into the recent discoveries of classified documents from his time as vice president at his home and former office.
“Jobs are up, wages are up, inflation is down, and COVID no longer controls our lives,” Biden told the Democratic National Committee on Friday. “But now, the extreme MAGA Republicans in the House of Representatives have made it clear they intend to put it all at risk. They intend to destroy it.”
The president, meanwhile, is shifting his focus from legislating to implementing the massive infrastructure and climate bills passed in the last Congress — and to trying to make sure Americans credit him for the improvements.
“These things don’t sell themselves,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Sunday on NBC. “And it’s one of the reasons I’m really looking forward to that State of the Union address. I will say that there have been so many accomplishments under this administration. It can be difficult to list them in a distilled way.”
While large-scale bipartisanship remains unlikely, Biden was set to reissue his 2022 appeal for Congress to get behind his “unity agenda” of actions to address the opioid epidemic, mental health, veterans’ health and cancer.
Biden will also call on lawmakers to responsibly raise the debt limit and keep the government funded. The president has remained opposed to negotiating to avoid default, while Republicans are pushing for unspecified deep spending cuts to reduce the deficit.
Biden, according to two administration officials who requested anonymity to preview the speech, was also expected to discuss his decision to shoot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon Saturday, as part of a broader section on countering China’s more assertive economic and military actions around the world.
His address last year came just days after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and many in the West doubted Kyiv’s ability to avoid a swift routing. Now the war is on the cusp of entering its second year, and under Biden the U.S. and allies have sent tens of billions of dollars in military and economic assistance to bolster Ukraine’s defenses. Now the president must make the case — both at home and abroad — for sustaining that coalition as the war drags on.
Meanwhile, inflation, which rose precipitously last year in part because of soaring energy prices from the war, has begun to ease.
Still, only a quarter of U.S. adults say things in the country are headed in the right direction, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research; about three-quarters say things are on the wrong track.
Similarly, views of the national economy remain deeply negative, with 24% calling the national economy good and 76% calling it poor.
“Jobs are up, wages are up, inflation is down, and COVID no longer controls our lives . ... But now, the extreme MAGA Republicans in the House of Representatives have made it clear they intend to put it all at risk.”
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN
SPEAKING TO THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE