U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 1, 2022.
Saul Loeb | Bloomberg | Getty Images
U.S. President Joe Biden will face a divided Congress and stubbornly high inflation when he delivers the annual State of the Union address later Tuesday night.
U.S. job growth, the war in Ukraine, the rise in domestic manufacturing, the ongoing pandemic and America’s strategic competition with China will dominate the speech, according to White House aides who outlined his comments.
Tuesday will be the first time since 2019 that the president and congressional leaders are permitted to bring guests to the event, which is attended by every member of the House and Senate, all nine Supreme Court Justices, most of the president’s Cabinet and the diplomatic corps.
It will also be the first time that Biden gives the historic speech before a divided Congress after Republicans clenched control of the U.S. House in November’s midterm elections.
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California will sit behind Biden’s left shoulder on the dais during his address instead Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Vice President Kamala Harris will sit next to McCarthy.
For Biden, there is a lot riding on his ability to connect with his audience this year. His approval ratings are holding steady at 45%, according to the most recent NBC News polling.
Despite record job growth and new data indicating that inflation is slowing, Americans remain deeply pessimistic about the state of the economy.
They blame Biden for rising interest rates and they worry about a possible recession. The NBC poll found that only 36% of U.S. adults approved of Biden’s handling of the economy.
In addition to economic woes, the debt ceiling deadline later this year looms over Washington. It will require Biden to negotiate with the newly elected Republican majority in the House, who have demanded deep spending cuts before they will agree to pass a debt ceiling hike.
Biden also faces opposition overseas.
Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine is entering its second year with tens of thousands of casualties and no end in sight. While Russia poses an urgent threat to world peace, China presents an even longer and trickier challenge to the United States.
This was compounded by the high-altitude Chinese surveillance balloon that moved over the United States in the last week before it was shot down by the U.S. military.
Biden will address the U.S.-China relationship in the speech, but he will not announce new retaliatory actions against Beijing over the balloon, White House aides told NBC News.
Following Biden’s address, Arkansas Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders will deliver the GOP response to the speech. This will be followed by a Republican Spanish-language response, delivered by the newly elected Rep. Juan Ciscomani of Arizona.