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In the State of the Union, President Biden is expected to highlight what he's accomplished during his first two years in office and talk about his future plans. White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield joined Geoff Bennett to discuss the speech.
And we're going to shift our focus now to the White House.
Kate Bedingfield is the White House communications director.
Welcome back to the "NewsHour."
Kate Bedingfield, White House Communications Director:
Thanks for having me.
And, Kate, President Biden, we know, hopes to use his address tonight to present an optimistic portrait to the American people of his first two years in office.
This will likely be the largest TV audience he's going to have this year. How is he aiming to use this opportunity? What's his core message?
Yes, well, you're absolutely right that he's looking to put forth an optimistic message.
He's going to talk about everything that he's accomplished, that we have accomplished over the first two years of this administration, including 12 million jobs created, record low unemployment, 800,000 manufacturing jobs here. We're making things in America again. He's going to talk about the progress we have made on climate, on guns, on infrastructure.
So he's going to talk about what we have accomplished, but he's also going to talk about how we can build on that. This is also a forward-looking speech, and he's going to talk to the American people about what we can do to finish the job and continue to make the — and continue to build on the progress that we have made over these first two years.
This will also be the president's first speech to a divided Congress. Republicans obviously now control the House.
The biggest battle line so far has been raising the debt ceiling. President Biden has insisted he will not negotiate on meeting the country's debt obligations. Republicans have been equally adamant that they won't raise the debt ceiling without some spending concessions.
What's the White House strategy moving forward to arrive at some common ground, a common ground that President Biden says he wants to see?
Well, look, there is no question that it is Congress' constitutional obligation to address the debt ceiling.
They have historically, in fact, many, many members, most members of the Republican Caucus who are currently in office voted for a clean debt ceiling increase under President Trump with no preconditions. So, President Biden doesn't believe that it's acceptable to hold the full faith and credit of the United States hostage to negotiation.
So, Congress needs to handle its responsibility to deal with the debt ceiling. That said, what the president is open to is a conversation about fiscal responsibility. And, in fact, he has said that, on March 9, he's going to put forward his budget. And he's asking Speaker McCarthy and the Republicans to put their plan on the table.
Let's talk about where they're proposing to make some of these cuts. The president has said he will not tolerate cuts to Social Security and Medicare. So, what he's asking Speaker McCarthy is, if you want to talk about balancing a budget, then let's see where those cuts are going to come from.
Let's have a meaningful conversation about it, because here's the thing. Under President Biden, we have lowered the deficit $1.7 trillion in our first two years in office, all the while building a growing economy, creating those 12 million jobs I was talking about, creating small businesses, increasing wages.
So, President Biden is going to continue to build on that progress. He wants to have a meaningful conversation with Congress about how we do that.
Let's talk about China, Kate, because China, as I understand it, was included in this speech well before that balloon found its way, the Chinese alleged spy balloon found its way into American airspace last week.
But this incursion lends new urgency to this issue of competition with Beijing. How is the president going to frame that tonight, what he views as China's aggression, trying to contain it?
Well, you're right that it absolutely was in the speech prior to the incident with the balloon. Obviously, our relationship with China is a key pillar of our foreign policy.
The president has spent time with President Xi, most recently meeting with him in person in November. And President Biden has talked a lot about managing our relationship with China from a place of conflict to a place of competition. So you will certainly hear from him about that tonight.
In terms of the balloon, what I can say is, the president made a strategic and strong decision to shoot the balloon down, but to do it in a way that allowed us maximum opportunity to capture intelligence from the balloon, so collect on the balloon. And we know more about China's tradecraft and capabilities as a result of what we were able to gather from the balloon over the course those few days.
And then we shot it down over the water, so that we're able to recover the payload and learn more about — again, about their capabilities. And, also, we did that without any threat to American life. So, the president handled that in a strong and effective way that allowed us to learn more about their capabilities, but also ultimately sent the message to China that it was an unacceptable incursion.
Big picture question, why aren't more Americans feeling the accomplishments that President Biden is trying to sell?
As you know, there was a recent ABC News/Washington Post survey this weekend that found a majority of Americans, 62 percent, say they do not believe Biden has achieved much during his first two years in office. That's with unemployment at a 50-year low.
What accounts for that?
Well, look, a number of those accomplishments go into effect this year.
So, in a way, this makes sense. I mean, for example, the $35 cap on insulin went into effect January 1 of this year. A number of the other cost-saving provisions from the Inflation Reduction Act, in terms of health care subsidies, in terms of prescription drug costs, in terms of energy costs, so your utility bill, for example, a lot of those impacts take effect this year.
So, this is a year where people will start to feel more of those — more of the results of what the president has been able to get passed. And I think, across the board, look, the president will be the first to say we have made tremendous, tremendous progress, but we still have a ways to go. And he understands that people are feeling that pain. They're feeling the squeeze of high prices.
That's why he's working so hard to bring them down. So, you're going to hear from him tonight a message of optimism about the fact that we are on the right path, that we have seen — we're continuing to see indicators that show our economy is moving in the right direction. And you're going to hear him talk about how he understands what people are going through. And he's going to lay down his plans for how to continue to build on making things better for people across the country.
White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield.
Kate, thanks for your time.
Thank you for having me. Really appreciate it.
Watch the Full Episode
Geoff Bennett serves as co-anchor of PBS NewsHour. He also serves as an NBC News and MSNBC political contributor.
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