Zick Miller and KOLIN LONG

WASHINGTON (AP) – Faced with domestic unrest and danger abroad, President Joe Biden will deliver his first address on the state of the Union at a difficult time for the nation, aiming to emerge from a pandemic, reset its stalled domestic agenda and counter Russian aggression. .

The White House envisioned a speech Tuesday night as an opportunity to highlight improved coronavirus projections, rebrand Biden’s domestic policy priorities and show a way to cut costs for families struggling with rising inflation. But this has taken on new significance with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the rattling of Vladimir Putin’s nuclear sword.

In his statements, Biden planned to emphasize the courage of Ukrainian defenders and the determination of the newly intensified Western Alliance, which worked to rearm the Ukrainian military and cripple Russia’s economy through sanctions.

He will talk about “the importance of the United States as a leader in the world, upholding values, upholding global norms,” ​​said spokeswoman Jen Psaki. A few hours before his speech at the Capitol, Biden spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In an interview with CNN and Reuters, Zelensky said he called on Biden to convey a strong and “useful” message about Russia’s invasion.

Biden will address the crowd without a mask in the House of Representatives, which is one of the signs of easing the threat of coronavirus. But he will also speak from inside the newly fenced Capitol over renewed security concerns after last year’s uprising.

Rising energy prices as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine risks exacerbating inflation in the United States, which is already at its highest level in 40 years, eating away at people’s incomes and threatening economic recovery after the pandemic. And while the geopolitical crisis in Eastern Europe may have helped ease guerrilla tensions in Washington, it cannot eradicate the political and cultural discord that calls into question Biden’s ability to fulfill his promise to promote national unity.

Biden speaks to the American public, disappointed by his speech. A February AP-NORC poll found that more people disapprove than approve of how Biden handles his work, with 55% to 44%. That’s less than 60% of the favorable rating last July.

White House officials acknowledge that sentiment in the country is “sour”, citing a protracted pandemic and inflation. Biden in his speech highlighted the progress made a year ago – most of the U.S. population is now vaccinated and millions more are working – but also acknowledges that work has not yet been done, acknowledging American discontent.

Biden aides say they believe the national psyche is a “lingering indicator” that will improve over time. But the president does not have enough time to save his first-term program to revive his party’s political situation ahead of the November by-elections.

Republicans in the House of Representatives say the word “crisis” describes the state of the union with Biden and the Democrats – from energy policies that allow Russia to sell oil abroad, to domestic problems related to labor and immigration.

“We are going to push the president to do the right thing,” said Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the majority in the House of Representatives.

When a major social spending package was unveiled in Congress last year, Biden plans to repackage past proposals this year in search of achievable measures that he hopes will garner the support of the two parties in a heavily divided Congress ahead of the election.

The president had to allocate investments in everything from broadband Internet access to the construction of bridges from the November law on bipartisan infrastructure for 1.2 trillion.

He also planned to urge lawmakers to compromise on competitive competitiveness bills passed by the House and Senate to revive high-tech U.S. manufacturing and supply chains in the face of growing geopolitical threats from China.

The speech came at a time when progress on Biden’s many other legislative priorities was still stalled on Capitol Hill after Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin rejected a broad bill on “Back Better” spending that Biden advocated last fall.

As part of his speech to voters, Biden had to revive components of the legislation, but with a new focus on how proposals such as expanding the tax credit for children and reducing childcare costs could bring relief to families as prices rise. He also had to outline how his climate change proposals would cut costs for low- and middle-income families and create new jobs.

Psaki said Biden would “absolutely use the word” inflation “in his speech, but stressed that he focused on” how people feel about it “and did not view it as a statistic.

As part of this push, Biden was expected to call for lower health care costs by presenting his plan to allow Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs, as well as to expand more generous health insurance subsidies, which are now temporarily available. through the Affordable Care Act markets, where 14.5 million people are covered.

He planned to propose new mental health initiatives that coincide with growing bipartisan interest in Congress amid evidence that the pandemic has damaged the national psyche, and discuss new ways to improve access to health care for veterans affected by waste incineration during their service. officials said.

Biden also had to call for action on voting rights, gun control and police reform that failed to gain significant Republican support.

The president also had to push the Senate to make Federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson the first black woman in the Supreme Court. He singled her out last week.

A congressional doctor recently overturned a House of Representatives request to close his face after the government softened its recommendations on wearing masks. Wearing masks is now optional in the House of Representatives, which will be open to all members of Congress but not to their guests. Before the performance, participants must pass tests for COVID-19.

The number of seats for Biden’s speech at the joint session of Congress in April last year was limited to about 200, which is about 20% of the usual opportunity for a presidential speech. White House aides were worried that a repeat Tuesday would ruin the message the president was trying to convey.


Associated Press authors Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Lisa Mascara of Washington and Jason Dyren of New York contributed to this report.

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