WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will use his second State of the Union address on Tuesday to remind Americans how their lives have improved in their first two years in office as he tries to counter the pessimism in the country and difficulties in coping with the politics of a newly divided Washington.
Rather than offering major new policy proposals, Biden is 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 hones his stance on voters ahead of his expected announcement in the coming months that he will seek another term despite voter frustration with the country’s direction.
“Next week I will report on the State of the Union,” Biden said on Friday after a stronger-than-expected jobs report sent the jobless rate down to its lowest level in more than 53 years. “But today, I am pleased to report that the State of the Union and the state of our economy is strong.”
Biden’s remarks from the House podium will take place in a very different context than a year ago. Republicans now control the chamber, making it unlikely that significant legislation will reach Biden’s desk. The newly empowered GOP is eager to undo many of Biden’s accomplishments and raise the specter of ongoing investigations — including recent discoveries of classified documents from his days as vice president at his home and former office.
“Jobs are up, wages are up, inflation is down, and COVID is no longer controlling 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 that they intend to risk it all. They intend to destroy it.
The president, meanwhile, is shifting his focus from legislation to implementing the huge infrastructure and climate bills passed in the last Congress — and making sure Americans credit the improvements to him.
“These things don’t sell,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told NBC on Sunday. “And that’s one of the reasons I’m looking forward to this State of the Union address. I would like to say that under this government, so many achievements have been made. It can be difficult to list them as distilled.
While broad-based bipartisanship remains unlikely, Biden is expected to reinvigorate his 2022 call for Congress to back his “unity agenda” with actions on the opioid epidemic, mental health, health veterans and cancer.
Biden will also urge lawmakers to responsibly raise the debt ceiling and maintain government funding. The president has continued to oppose talks to avoid a default as Republicans push for unspecified deep spending cuts to reduce the deficit.
Biden was also expected to discuss his decision to shoot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon on Saturday, as part of a broader section on addressing China’s more assertive economic and military actions on the continent, according to two government officials, who requested anonymity to preview the talk the world over.
His speech last year came just days after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, and many Westerners doubted Kyiv’s ability to avoid a quick escape. Now the war is about to enter its second year, and under Biden the United States and its allies have sent tens of billions of dollars in military and economic aid to bolster Ukraine’s defenses. Now the president must make the case at home and abroad to maintain this coalition as the war drags on.
Meanwhile, inflation, which rose sharply last year partly due to war-related energy prices, has gradually moderated.
Yet only a quarter of American adults say things are moving in the right direction in the country, according to a new survey from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research; about three-quarters say things are on the wrong track.
Likewise, views on the national economy remain deeply negative, with 24% describing the national economy as good and 76% as bad. 41% of Democrats and 8% of Republicans rate the economy as good. The numbers are similar to when Biden delivered his State of the Union address last year, but an adjustment from Biden’s first year in office when Americans were more optimistic; About half said they thought the country was headed in the right direction when the president took office.
At the same time, 57% say their personal financial situation is good. It has been unchanged since December, but has eroded slightly since the start of last year. Up to 62% of Americans described their personal financial situation as good in surveys conducted by AP-NORC from late 2019 to early 2022.
Two years after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters, a protective fence around the Capitol was erected ahead of Biden’s speech on Sunday.
After the speech, Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and his cabinet plan to hold more than 30 events over two days to get the message out to Americans in their communities. Biden will travel to Wisconsin to discuss job creation on Wednesday and will be in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday to discuss his efforts to lower prescription drug costs and protect Social Security and Medicare.
“In his State of the Union address, President Biden will explain how the past two years have brought historic job growth, lower inflation, higher wages and record investment to America. “, said the White House. “The Economic Travel Flash shows how the President’s vision is creating jobs, rebuilding our infrastructure, reducing costs for families, fighting climate change, investing in our future and supporting families who are too often left behind.”
The trip follows Biden’s stops last week in Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia, focused on rail and water infrastructure projects funded by the bipartisan Infrastructure Bill of 2021.
Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani, Emily Swanson and Hannah Fingerhut contributed to this report.