WASHINGTON — Look for fresh faces and new political dynamics as President Joe Biden delivers this year’s State of the Union address, along with attention to some old issues brought back into the spotlight by recent events.
The president will appear Tuesday night before a joint session of Congress for the first time since midterm voters handed control of the House to Republicans. Biden, like previous presidents, will show that the nation is strong and that better days are ahead. But he finds himself in troubled waters when he passes half of his term.
After a series of legislative victories during the first two years of Biden’s term, Republicans are looking to undo some of their early victories. The recent mass shootings and a police killing in Memphis, Tennessee have renewed attention on the issues of gun violence and the excessive use of police force. And on the foreign policy front, Biden faces the formidable task of keeping a Western alliance, and the American electorate, united behind Ukraine in their effort to repel Russia’s ongoing invasion. He is also dealing with the fallout from the US downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon that floated over the United States last week. On top of all that, a special prosecutor is investigating how classified information from Biden’s days as vice president and senator ended up at his home and former Delaware office.
A few things to keep in mind on Tuesday night:
WHERE DO I SEE OR LISTEN?: The speech is scheduled for 4 pm HST and will be broadcast on all major networks and cable news television channels. The AP will broadcast the speech live on APNews.com. The White House plans to stream it on its website and make it available on its YouTube, Facebook and Twitter pages. Live coverage will also be provided by C-SPAN, C-SPAN Radio and C-SPAN.org. NPR is broadcasting the speech on its website, npr.org, and on its app, as well as offering live coverage to its member radio stations.
BIDEN vs. MCCARTHY: This time it will be the new Republican Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, who wields the sledgehammer and sits behind Biden on the dais instead of Democrat Nancy Pelosi. He looks at the body language between the two, and how Republican lawmakers treat Biden in general after some sharp Republican outbursts from the audience last year.
The president and the new speaker recently had a productive first meeting, but are at an impasse over the nation’s debt limit. Republicans have refused to raise the statutory debt limit unless Biden agrees to cuts in federal spending. Biden has said raising the cap is not up for negotiation and that Congress must pay the nation’s bills or the country will face economic calamity.
The Democratic president said last week that McCarthy made “absolutely outlandish” commitments to win the presidency. Biden’s rhetorical jabs may not be as sharp in formal speech, but expect him to more subtly argue that there is a yawning chasm between the way he and Republicans approach the economy, health care and Social Security.
VIOLENCE WITH GUNS AND POLICE: The parents of Tire Nichols, who was severely beaten by police officers in Memphis and later died, are expected to be in the audience for Biden’s speech. The same goes for Brandon Tsay, who disarmed the gunman who shot and killed 11 people last month in Monterey Park, California, along with others who intervened during recent mass shootings.
Watch as Biden, in his presence, discusses the recent spate of mass shootings and the beating death of Nichols, after his earlier efforts to tackle gun violence and police excesses were severely curtailed by resistance in Congress.
THE CHINESE GLOBE: Look up Biden to talk about his decision to have the military shoot down an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon on Saturday, but how tough will he be on China?
His comments on the globe will be part of a larger section on countering China’s stronger economic and military actions around the world.
WHAT’S NEXT IN UKRAINE?: Biden has repeatedly said that the United States is committed to helping Ukraine “for as long as it takes” to push Russia back. The United States has already committed nearly $30 billion in security assistance since the start of the war.
Polls show that Americans remain broadly in favor of supporting Ukraine as it tries to fend off Russia. Administration officials, however, have made it clear to Ukraine that Congress’s patience with the cost of war is not infinite.