His traditional address to a joint session of Congress is scheduled to start at 9 p.m. Eastern time. Biden plans to highlight what he has accomplished in the past year despite “deep challenges,” as an aide described it to reporters. He will also outline his aspirations for the next year, including a new “unity agenda” of items that he believes could garner bipartisan support.
Here’s what to know
- The audience inside the House chamber will be significantly larger than the 200 allowed last year when Biden delivered a speech to Congress that was not considered an official State of the Union address.
- The address comes as Biden is lobbying the Senate to confirm federal judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. She would be the first Black woman to serve on the court in its 233-year history.
- Biden, in his address, will announce a new national mental health hotline intended to connect Americans with crisis services, White House aides said in a call with reporters.
- Biden will call on Congress to increase the maximum Pell Grant award by $2,000, raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and create a national paid family-leave program, aides said. On climate change, Biden will push for clean-energy tax credits that were part of his stalled legislative agenda.
- The Post will air a “Special Report with Libby Casey” starting at 8 p.m., featuring analysis from Post reporters.
BIDEN’S STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS
House Democratic caucus leaders urge Congress to move on a reconciliation bill
Ahead of Biden’s speech, leaders of eight Democratic caucuses released a joint statement urging Congress to pass a budget reconciliation bill that will “deliver immediate and lasting results for Americans.”
Work on a reconciliation bill containing Biden’s Build Back Better agenda — an array of social-safety and climate initiatives, among others — is stalled, largely due to objections by Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). Under reconciliation rules, Democrats could pass a bill without any support from Republicans, but only if all 50 members of the Democratic caucus are on board in the evenly divided Senate.
“There is broad consensus on the most critical solutions Americans need to lower costs for families, tackle the climate crisis, and create opportunities and good-paying jobs,” the leaders of the eight caucuses said. “It is time to act. We stand united and ready to work with President Biden and all of our colleagues in the House and Senate to ensure a strong, final version of this bill becomes law as soon as possible.”
Those issuing the statement included the leaders of the New Democrat Coalition, Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Democratic Women’s Caucus, Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus and the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition.
Biden will say he is ‘building a better America,’ White House tells House Democrats
House Democrats were briefed virtually for over an hour by a top administration official about what Biden is expected to say during his first State of the Union address Tuesday evening.
White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield told Democrats that Biden’s core message will be to outline how his administration is “building a better America,” according to two people on the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share its contents.
Biden is expected to tout the progress his administration and Congress have made in the past year, explain how the country can return to normal following the lows of the pandemic, and stress that the country must remain united in achieving bipartisan legislative goals.
Biden will also focus heavily on the situation unfolding between Ukraine and Russia, according to the people on the call. He is expected to outline how the United States must meet the moment on the global stage by disputing autocracy that is repeatedly trying to diminish democracies.
Biden to call for more mental health services as part of ‘unity agenda’ during address
Biden, in his address, will announce a new national mental health hotline intended to connect Americans with crisis services, White House aides said in a call with reporters.
The hotline, which will be operational in the summer, is among several policies designed to strengthen the country’s mental health infrastructure. It will be among the initiatives that the president will call for as part of a new “unity agenda” of items that he says could garner bipartisan support.
“The president is announcing a national mental health strategy to strengthen system capacity, connect more Americans to care, and create a continuum of support — transforming our health and social services infrastructure to address mental health holistically and equitably,” the White House said in a statement.
Biden also will call on Congress to hold social media companies responsible for targeting young people, according to the call with reporters. Specifically, he’ll ask Congress for legislation that will “strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, and demand technology companies stop collecting personal data on our children,” according to a fact sheet released by the White House.
The president will push for ways to increase the number of people who work in mental health fields and try to make those services more widely available. That will include easing telehealth rules and asking for updates to regulations in place requiring health insurance companies to offer robust mental health coverage.
Texas rings the starting bell of the midterm primary season
Also playing out Tuesday as Biden prepares to head to Capitol Hill: the first primaries of the midterms.
Texas kicks off the season with elections that will help determine the political staying power of the Bush family name, the potency of former president Donald Trump’s endorsements and the state’s future representation on Capitol Hill.
Primary contests for governor, attorney general and Congress, as well as dozens of local jobs such as county judge and justice of the peace, are on the ballot in a state where Republicans have found their footing after suffering some setbacks during the 2018 midterm elections.
Republican strategists enter Election Day bullish on their prospects in November. Early-voting totals show much higher Republican than Democratic interest in what appears to be shaping up as a low-turnout primary affair.
Biden’s poll numbers are sagging ahead of address to nation
Biden will address the nation Tuesday night with sagging poll numbers.
Thirty-seven percent of U.S. adults approve of the way he’s handling his job while 55 percent disapprove, according to the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll. Those are the worst marks he has received in Post polling since taking office.
Biden gets negative marks on several major fronts, including his handling of the economy, the coronavirus and the situation involving Russia and Ukraine.
Thirty-seven percent approve of his handling of the economy, while 58 percent disapprove. Forty-four percent approve of his handling of the coronavirus, while 50 percent disapprove. And 33 percent approve of his handling of the situation involving Russia and Ukraine, while 47 percent disapprove.
Asked whether Biden “can be trusted in a crisis,” 43 percent say yes, while 52 percent say no. Those results are identical to ratings for President Donald Trump in early 2017 but worse than ratings for President Barack Obama in 2009 and 2014.
Nearly half of the public says America’s leadership in the world has gotten weaker under Biden (48 percent), while 23 percent say it has gotten stronger and 26 percent say it has stayed the same. In 2017 and 2018, between 47 percent and 53 percent of Americans said U.S. leadership had gotten weaker under Trump.
The Post-ABC poll was conducted Feb. 20 to 24 among a random national sample of 1,011 adults, reached on cellphones and landlines. The margin of error is plus or minus four percentage points for overall results.
Biden fares somewhat worse in the latest Post-ABC poll than in a broader Post average of February public polls. That tally finds Biden at 42 percent positive, 53 percent negative.
It’s not just the GOP. Three House Democrats to deliver their response to Biden’s address
In the beginning of State of the Union addresses, there was the president’s and the opposition party’s response.
But in a reflection of the divisions within the Democratic ranks, three House Democrats will deliver their response to Biden’s speech. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) will speak on behalf of the progressive Working Families Party group, Rep. Colin Allred (Tex.) is offering a response for the Congressional Black Caucus and Rep. Josh Gottheimer (N.J.) will speak on behalf of the bipartisan group No Labels.
Tlaib’s speech is expected to be a call for her fellow Democrats — particularly party members who have blocked Biden’s sweeping climate and social spending proposals, formerly known as the “Build Back Better” plan — to act with greater urgency while they hold the majority in the House and Senate.
“I am especially excited to elevate the voices of the working-class residents in my district and across the nation,” Tlaib said in a statement last week. “It should not be this hard to deliver on health care, climate, housing, child care, safety, voting rights, clean water and so much more. … Our communities deserve for us to act now.”
Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) was baffled by the turn of events, tweeting, “Democrats giving a response to democratic President SOTU…priceless.”
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds will deliver the Republican Party’s formal rebuttal to Biden’s speech.
In ad running Tuesday, DSCC seeks to contrast agenda of Senate Democrats, Republicans
In a new television ad timed to coincide with Biden’s address, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee seeks to draw a contrast between the priorities of Democrats and Republicans as they vie for control of the chamber in this year’s midterm elections.
The spot says that Democrats are focused on the middle class, citing a drop in the unemployment rate, jobs created by the bipartisan infrastructure bill and efforts to lower prescription drug costs, among other things. Meanwhile, the ad contends that Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), are focused on “the same wealthy insiders who get rich by keeping prices high.”
The DSCC said the ad would air Tuesday on Fox, MSNBC and CNN.
White House reached out to Jackson three days after Breyer’s official announcement
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson first heard from the White House about filling the soon-to-be-vacated seat of Justice Stephen G. Breyer three days after he formally announced his intention to retire after the court’s current term.
The timeline of Jackson’s interactions with the White House about her nomination process was disclosed in her official questionnaire submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.
White House counsel Dana Remus first reached out to Jackson about the vacancy on Jan. 30 — three days after Breyer and Biden appeared together Jan. 27 to announce the associate justice’s plan to retire.
Jackson formally interviewed with both Biden and Remus on Feb. 14. Three days before that, on Feb. 11, Jackson had interviewed with Vice President Harris over Zoom. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week that Biden interviewed all three finalists for the nomination — Jackson, California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger and South Carolina federal district judge J. Michelle Childs — in person on Feb. 14.
Biden is sure to tout his historic nomination of Jackson — who, if confirmed, would be the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court — at his State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Sen. Rubio to skip Biden’s address, says he doesn’t have time to get a coronavirus test
At least one Republican lawmaker won’t be attending Biden’s State of the Union address over the requirement for a coronavirus test.
“I don’t have time to go take a COVID test today,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), according to a tweet from HuffPost reporter Igor Bobic. “I only take a test if I’m sick.”
As a member of Congress, Rubio has access to the Capitol physician’s office, which has been providing testing and vaccinations to lawmakers.
Both Congress and the White House have eased several of the restrictions imposed during the height of the pandemic as cases have dropped significantly. Mask-wearing is optional at the Capitol; the White House ended its mask mandate for employees who are vaccinated, effective Tuesday.
Rubio has been a fierce foe of health restrictions. He was one of eight senators to push back against efforts to create a federal “no-fly” list for unruly passengers, arguing that doing so would essentially draw an equivalence between terrorists and opponents of mask mandates.
Analysis: Longtime foreign policy hands urge Biden to use speech to rally free world
When Biden accepted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) invitation in January to deliver the State of the Union address this evening, the speech offered the opportunity to sell the infrastructure law and rally support for passing the rest of Biden’s agenda.
Nearly two months later, Biden’s team has refashioned the speech to inveigh against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And some longtime foreign policy hands have urged Biden to use the address to rally the American public and the free world in defense of democracy.
“This will be the defining speech of his presidency,” said Michael McFaul, who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration. “And so he needs to think about it in those big stark terms.”
Coronavirus restrictions will be more relaxed than a year ago
During Biden’s first speech to a joint session of Congress a year ago, which was not an official State of the Union address, lawmakers were prohibited from bringing guests because of the coronavirus pandemic, a restriction that will be in force again on Tuesday. Still, the audience will be significantly larger than the 200 allowed last time in the House chamber.
Attendees are expected to include six of the nine Supreme Court justices, after only one was invited to attend last year’s speech. And about 20 Cabinet officials are scheduled to attend, according to a person involved with the planning who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the guest list. First lady Jill Biden’s box could include up to eight guests, the person said.
Under new guidance from Congress’s Office of the Attending Physician sent out Sunday, lawmakers and other attendees will not have to wear masks. That office had said earlier in February that masks would be required, but since then the Biden administration has shifted health guidance to say face coverings are not needed in Washington.
Biden to highlight economic, climate plans in speech
Biden’s speech will include a section on his economic plans, including calling on Congress to send him legislation designed to make the United States more competitive with China.
Biden will also ask Congress to increase the maximum Pell Grant award by $2,000, raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, and create a national paid family-leave program, according to aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the speech.
On climate change, Biden will push for clean energy tax credits that were part of his stalled legislative agenda, according to a White House fact sheet sent out late Monday.
Biden aides said he will also address how any new plans should be paid for. “The president will outline proposals to make sure that corporations and the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share,” an aide said Monday.
D.C. braces for possible protests around State of the Union address
The Secret Service and other federal and local authorities are preparing for possible demonstrations and disruptions ahead of Biden’s first State of the Union address at the Capitol on Tuesday night.
In addition to possible protests before or during the president’s annual address to Congress, people inspired by the self-styled “Freedom Convoy” that occupied downtown Ottawa for weeks are expected to converge in the region to decry coronavirus-related restrictions, although most might not arrive until later this week.
Heightened security measures were evident over the weekend when officials encircled the Capitol complex with temporary fencing previously installed after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. The D.C. National Guard has been called upon for assistance, and on Monday busloads of about 100 police officers from New York City arrived to help. Police from Philadelphia are also in the District, and Baltimore officers are on standby, officials said.
Biden vows to crack down on poorest-performing nursing homes
The White House announced plans Monday to boost nursing home staffing and oversight, blaming some of the 200,000-plus covid deaths of nursing home residents and staff during the pandemic on inadequate conditions.
Officials said the plan would set minimum staffing levels, reduce the use of shared rooms and crack down on the poorest-performing nursing homes to reduce the risk of residents contracting infectious diseases. The White House also said it planned to scrutinize the role of private equity firms, citing data that their ownership was linked with worse outcomes and higher costs.
The initiatives are among a broader package of domestic policies that Biden plans to tout in his first State of the Union address Tuesday.