United States President Joe Biden will declare US democracy is bruised but “unbowed and unbroken” in a State of the Union speech that will serve as an olive branch to skeptical Republicans and a blueprint for his 2024 re-election bid.
In his first address to a joint session of Congress since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in January, President Biden plans to cite progress in a post-pandemic economy, highlight massive infrastructure and inflation bills passed in 2022 and stress that a bitterly divided Congress can still make laws in the year ahead.
“To my Republican friends – if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together in this new Congress,” President Biden, a Democrat, will say, according to excerpts of the speech released by the White House.
The speech is scheduled for 9pm ET (0200 GMT on Wednesday).
“The people sent us a clear message. Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict, gets us nowhere … We’ve been sent here to finish the job.”
One test of that challenge will be the White House push to raise the $US31.4 ($45.1) trillion debt ceiling, which must be lifted in the coming months to avoid a default.
The White House has said President Biden will not negotiate over that necessity.
Republicans want spending cuts in exchange for their support.
Seeking to project optimism ahead of a 2024 presidential campaign, President Biden will say the economy is benefiting from 12 million new jobs, COVID-19 no longer controls American lives and US democracy remains intact.
“Today, though bruised, our democracy remains unbowed and unbroken,” he will say, according to the excerpts.
Since his inauguration in 2021, shortly after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, Biden has said he wants to unify the country.
But he remains unpopular.
The president’s public approval rating edged one percentage point higher to 41 per cent in a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll that closed on Sunday.
That is close to the lowest level of his presidency, with 65 per cent of Americans saying they believe the country is on the wrong track, compared to 58 per cent a year earlier.
Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who once served as press secretary for former President Donald Trump, rejected President Biden’s upbeat vision of the country in her Republican response.
“In the radical left’s America, Washington taxes you and lights your hard-earned money on fire but you get crushed with high gas prices, empty grocery shelves and our children are taught to hate one another on account of their race,” Governor Sanders said in excerpts released ahead of her televised remarks.
President Biden aides see the speech, which will draw millions of viewers and perhaps the president’s largest television audience of the year, as a milestone ahead of the second presidential campaign he is expected to launch in coming weeks.
President Biden turned 80 in November and, if re-elected, would be 82 at the start of a second term, a fact that concerns many Democratic voters, recent polls show.
President Biden will face a rambunctious and splintered gathering of Republican lawmakers, eager to put their conservative mark on US policy following four years of Democratic control of the House.
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