President Biden spent the weekend and worked into the afternoon on Monday at Camp David, preparing his State of the Union address with top senior advisors. This comes at a time when tensions with China rise after shooting down their spy balloon and as Biden battles with Republican lawmakers over debt and spending limits. Biden is expected to ease away from those concerns during his speech and instead intends to focus on testing potential 2024 campaign pitches. These include an assault weapons ban, abortion rights, and a tax hike on wealthy Americans in a “strong contrast” to trickle-down economics. Biden expects to pitch these ideas as “a conversation with Americans” while depicting conservatives as “extremists” who are “out of touch with Americans.”
By Jordan Fabian and Josh Wingrove; February 7, 2023
(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden will speak to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday evening against the backdrop of renewed tensions with China and a brewing showdown with House Republicans over raising the federal debt ceiling.
The downing of an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon that is hampering efforts to improve ties with Beijing and the specter of a US default that threatens to wreak havoc on the US economy will have investors, diplomats, and lawmakers looking for reassurance as the president juggles two challenges with international ramifications.
Here is what to watch for:
Tax the Rich
Biden plans to call for a minimum tax on billionaires and quadrupling the levy on stock buybacks, items that stand little chance of passing through the divided Congress but could resonate with the public. Biden will also nod at the “economic anxiety” many Americans are facing while also explaining how his policies will improve their situations, White House economic adviser Brian Deese said Monday.
Biden will “make a clear contrast to the trickle-down economic philosophy that has pervaded thinking for years and decades in the past,” Deese said.
Stump Speech Test Run
Biden aims to use the address to test drive his 2024 campaign message in front of tens of millions of voters who will be watching on television and begin chipping away at polls that show most voters disapprove of his presidency. The president has yet to officially announce his reelection run, but in recent weeks he has used a sharper tone against Republicans at a series of campaign-style events, painting them as extreme and out of touch with Americans’ concerns.
Read More: Biden to Face Wary Democrats, Angry GOP in Test of 2024 Message
The president is also expected to highlight the accomplishments of his first two years in office — including his landmark climate and health law and infrastructure package — and chart his vision for the year ahead, according to White House officials.
After the speech, Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and a group of Cabinet officials plan to take their message on the road. Their post-speech travel “blitz” planned by the White House will see them visit 20 states and host more than 30 events.
Earlier: Biden, Cabinet Plot Post-State of the Union Travel ‘Blitz’
More than six in 10 Americans do not believe the president has accomplished much during his first two years in office, despite Congress’s passage of major legislation under Democratic control, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll.
War in Ukraine
Biden invited the Ambassador of Ukraine, Oksana Markarova, to once again attend the event, underscoring his intention to press lawmakers to continue the flow of aid and arms to her country.
“Safe to say as he speaks to the American people and to members of Congress tomorrow night that, that he will talk about his efforts to reassert American leadership on the world stage,” said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.
Policing, Abortion, Guns
Biden is also expected policing overhaul efforts in the wake of the killing of Tyre Nichols. Nichols’s mother and stepfather are among more than a dozen guests of First Lady Jill Biden and among a group that includes U2 singer Bono — who will highlight US efforts to combat HIV/AIDS — and Paul Pelosi, who late last year was attacked by a hammer-wielding home intruder who was searching for his wife, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Other guests hinted at likely legislative priorities Biden will champion during the speech, from abortion rights to an assault weapons ban.
Biden will also call for a bipartisan law banning targeted advertising online for children and young people.
White House aides on Tuesday morning said the president would build on the four-pronged “Unity Agenda” he outlined during last year’s speech: battling the opioid epidemic, making breakthroughs in cancer treatment, aiding veterans, and tackling the nation’s mental health crisis.
As part of that effort, Biden will announce a renewed push to stop fentanyl from crossing the southwest border and lead a sustained diplomatic push to curb the supply chain for fentanyl — often produced in Mexico with supplies from China.
In the past year, Customs and Border Protection has seized a historic 260,000 pounds of illicit drugs, including nearly 15,000 pounds of fentanyl, according to a White House fact sheet.
“One of the things that we know is important is to make sure that we’re addressing the entire global supply chain of fentanyl and precursor compounds,” Rahul Gupta, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Tuesday. Biden will continue to press the issue with the governments of China and Mexico, he said. “We have very specific asks of the PRC to take action that we know will significantly reduce if not eliminate that shipping of precursor chemicals.”