NOTE: Live coverage of the speech will air on NBC Chicago and can be viewed in the player above beginning at 8 p.m. CT.
President Joe Biden will deliver his first State of the Union address on Tuesday at a rushing time for the nation.
The speech, scheduled for 8pm CT Tuesday night, was originally conceived by the White House as an opportunity to highlight the improving outlook for the coronavirus and rebrand Biden’s domestic policy priorities as a way to cut costs for families struggling with runaway inflation. But it took on new meaning with the Russian invasion of Ukraine last week and Vladimir Putin’s nuclear slashing.
Here’s what you need to know about the address:
How to watch State of the Union Live Tuesday
Live coverage of the speech will air on NBC Chicago and can be viewed in the player above starting at 8 p.m. CT.
NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt and Today co-anchor and NBC News chief legal correspondent Savannah Guthrie will lead the live coverage from Washington, D.C. NBC News political director and Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd and NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent and Chief Washington Correspondent Andrea Mitchell will also join the coverage.
Peacock will also have live coverage, beginning with The Choice With MSNBC featuring Zerlina Maxwell on “Zerlina” beginning at 5 p.m. CT. Maxwell and her guests will break down the State of the Union through the lens of racial calculus, the ongoing pandemic, and women’s rights in America. “The Mehdi Hasan Show” will then provide coverage beginning at 6:00 p.m. CT and will return after the address to offer reaction and analysis.
What is the president going to talk about?
Biden will address a mostly full, masked crowd in the House chamber, a sign of the easing coronavirus threat. But he will also speak from inside a Capitol building that was newly fenced off due to new security concerns following last year’s insurgency.
He will now include Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when he addresses Congress and the threats to democracy posed by Putin.
“Certainly what we see on the ground in Ukraine, the fact that the president has built a coalition of countries around the world to stand up against Russia and Putin and impose crippling sanctions, that is part of what people will hear,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in an interview on MSNBC on Monday.
Rising energy prices following Russia’s war in Ukraine are likely to exacerbate inflation in the United States, which is already at a 40-year high, eat into Americans’ incomes and threaten the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic. And while the geopolitical crisis in Eastern Europe may have helped calm partisan tensions in Washington, it cannot erase the political and cultural discord that casts doubt on Biden’s ability to deliver on his promise to promote unity. national.
White House officials acknowledge the country’s mood is “sour”, citing the lingering pandemic and inflation as sources of blame. Biden, in his speech, will highlight the progress made a year ago – with the majority of the country now vaccinated and millions more at work – but will also acknowledge that the job is not yet done, an acknowledgment of American discontent. .
Biden aides say they believe the national psyche is a “descent indicator” and will improve over time. But time is running out for the president, who must salvage his first-term program to revive his party’s political fortunes ahead of November’s midterm elections.
Where his joint speech last year saw the rollout of a massive social spending package, Biden plans this year to repackage past proposals in search of popular and workable measures he hopes can win the day. bipartisan support in a bitterly divided Congress before the midterms.
The president was expected to highlight investments in everything from broadband access to building bridges starting in November’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, holding it up as an example of government reaching consensus and bringing change to the American people.
He also planned to call on lawmakers to reach a compromise on rival competitiveness bills that have passed the House and Senate, both intended to revitalize American high-tech manufacturing and supply chains. in the face of growing geopolitical threats from China.
The speech comes as progress on many of Biden’s other legislative priorities remains stalled on Capitol Hill, after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin scuttled the sweeping ‘Build Back Better’ spending bill that Biden championed in the fall. last.
As part of his address to voters, Biden will aim to resurrect elements of the legislation, but with a new focus on how proposals like expanding the child tax credit and cutting child care fees children could bring relief to families as prices rise. He also had to explain how his proposals on climate change would reduce costs for low- and middle-income families and create new jobs.
“The president will absolutely use the word inflation tomorrow and he will talk about inflation in his speech,” Psaki said. But she pointed out that Biden is focusing on “how people experience it” rather than looking at it as a statistic.
As part of the push, Biden is expected to call for lower health care costs, outlining his plan to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, as well as an extension of the more generous health insurance subsidies now available. temporarily through the Affordable Care Act markets where 14.5 million people are covered.
He also plans to propose new initiatives on mental health that dovetail with growing bipartisan interest in Congress amid evidence that the national psyche has been damaged by the pandemic. The plan includes measures to protect children on social media, requiring insurers to cover three mental health visits a year at no cost to the patient and additional investment in the new national suicide hotline – 988 – which is expected to be commissioned later this year.
While prospects for passing Congress were dim, Biden was also expected to call for action on voting rights, gun control and police reform, which have been stalled despite his Democratic majority.
Biden needed to show what he’s done so far — for example, taking action to crack down on ‘ghost guns’, homemade firearms that lack serial numbers used to trace them and are often purchased without background checks .
On voting rights, legislation stalled after Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema denied Senate Democrats the ability to use a workaround that would allow them to pass the bills. of law with their narrow majority of 50-50 instead of the 60 votes normally required.
Election legislation drafted by congressional Democrats would entail the biggest overhaul of U.S. elections in a generation by removing barriers to voting passed in the name of election security. Republicans say the changes are not aimed at fairness but give Democrats an advantage in the election.
Biden will also push the Senate to confirm that Ketanji Brown Jackson will be the first black woman on the Supreme Court. He named her last week.
Ahead of the speech, the Congressional Physician’s Office announced it was lifting the House face-covering requirement after the federal government relaxed its mask-wearing guidelines. Now, mask-wearing will be optional in the House chamber, which will be open to all members of Congress, but still no guests.
Everyone who attends will be required to take a COVID-19 test before Biden’s address.
Biden aims to use his remarks to highlight progress against COVID-19 and to guide the country into a “new phase” of the virus response that more closely resembles pre-pandemic life.
Seating for Biden’s first speech to a joint session of Congress last April was limited to about 200 people, or about 20% of the usual capacity for a presidential presentation. White House aides worried that a repeat this year would have been a dissonant picture of the message the president aims to convey to the American people.
“I think you’re going to see it look a lot more like a normal State of the Union,” White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said. “This is going to look like the most normal thing people have seen in Washington in a long time.”