What to expect from Biden’s State of the Union address

Tuesday night, President Joe Biden will deliver his assessment of where the country's been and where it's going. Lisa Desjardins and Laura Barrón-López joined Geoff Bennett to discuss what to expect from the State of the Union address.

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  • Geoff Bennett:

    President Joe Biden delivers his assessment of where the country has been and where it's going later tonight.

    Our Lisa Desjardins and Laura Barrón-López join me now with more on what to expect.

    And, Laura, you have been talking to White House officials. What message does President Biden hope to convey to Congress and to the American people tonight?

  • Laura Barrón-López:

    White House officials told me today that the president is going to say that the country needs to finish the job that he started in the first two years of his presidency.

    He's also going to be exuding a lot of optimism and hope, they told me, but there are going to be some central big themes. Those big themes are going to be on foreign policy, the continued defense of Ukraine against Russian aggression, as well as countering China, and the competitiveness and U.S. trying to counteract China's economic rise as a rival, also on the economy, job growth.

    The president is going to tout that a lot, his — the bipartisan infrastructure law and the investments that are being made across the country, as well as a number of health care action that were taken.

    And then, finally, he's going to talk about bipartisanship and his attempt to try to work across the aisle with Republicans, but also contrast himself with the GOP, specifically on issues like abortion, on police brutality, on gun control.

    And then he's going to look forward a bit as well, trying to say that Congress should act on areas that they left on the cutting room floor, essentially, during the first two years, like again extending the child tax credit.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    So, Lisa, President Biden, according to Laura's reporting, is trying to draw a contrast tonight with Republicans.

    How are Republicans prepared to respond?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    There will be some contrast. There will also be something different from the new speaker, Kevin McCarthy.

    Remember, for Kevin McCarthy, this is his first time in that kind of national spotlight. He told us last night that he plans to be respectful, to honor the day. I think he's kind of trying to be above partisan politics for now, although he's obviously been partisan in the past.

    Who will be partisan on behalf of Republicans? The new governor of Arkansas, someone our viewers may be familiar with, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She has been governor — there she is at her inauguration — for four weeks.

    She is going to contrast herself as America's youngest governor right now at the age of 40 with President Biden, America's oldest president in history. She will also lay out sort of themes we will see from the Republicans and have before, things they say that President Biden is failing at, the border, the economy.

    I believe she may bring up the China balloon as well in some way. She will also president Republicans as being more for a strong America. That's something we're going to see both people talk about tonight. One other thing Republicans are doing, they will have a Spanish-language response, as they have in the past. This is from Juan Ciscomani, a new freshman member of Congress.

    Interesting because, as Sarah Huckabee Sanders used to be the spokesperson for Trump, then, Juan Ciscomani was actually with Steve (sic) Ducey's office, a Trump opponent.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    And, Laura, as is tradition, there will be special guests invited by the first lady to attend the speech tonight.

    Tell us who they are and what message these invitations are meant to convey.

  • Laura Barrón-López:

    So, one of the ones that stood out to me, because there will be a number of guests, including the Ukrainian — the ambassador of Ukraine to the United States.

    But I wanted to highlight a few. There's Paul Pelosi, who's been invited to sit alongside the first lady. And the White House noted specifically when they invited Paul Pelosi that he was the subject of a politically motivated attack, and that the intruder chanted "Where's Nancy?" when he entered their home.And that was a similar chant that rioters used during the January 6 insurrection.

    Also, Brandon Tsay, who disarmed the Monterey Park shooter during the lunar new year celebration in Monterey Park, California, and, finally, of course, also of note RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, the mother and stepfather to Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old Black man who was fatally beaten by police in Memphis, Tennessee.

    And on that note, also, a number of other lawmakers, congressional Black lawmakers, are going to be in the chamber. They invited families of the victims of police brutality, notably, the father of Michael Brown, the mother of Eric Garner, and the brother of George Floyd. So they're really — Democrats are trying to a showcase specifically a lot of the police brutality that has been occurring and that issue that the country is still reckoning with.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Yes, and inject some new urgency into the police reform push.

    So, in the minute we have left, Lisa, what are you going to be watching for tonight from your perch in the House Gallery, right behind the House Rostrum, yes.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Very honored and special place to be.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    It's very cool.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    We will not see sort of color blocks, as we have seen in the past, lots of people wearing white, for example, in the past.

    We will see buttons reflecting what Laura was talking about. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus will be wearing buttons saying 1870. That is the date of the first known killing of a Black — unarmed Black men in this country by a police officer. So they will be showing that detail.

    But I'm also going to be looking around for this new sense of normal in the House, Geoff, because this is going to be the first time that everyone in that chamber since the pandemic does not have to show a COVID-negative test to be there. There are no more magnetometers, which were also put in by the Democrats, now taken out.

    Along with this kind of going back to normal, there's a new normal outside of the Capitol, which is eight-foot-tall fencing. That is something that was not in place for State of the Unions before January 6. It is now up around the Capitol tonight.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Lisa Desjardins and Laura Barrón-López, thank you both. Appreciate it.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Thank you.

  • Laura Barrón-López:

    You're welcome.

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