President Joe Biden sat through many State of the Union speeches as a senator and vice president. On Tuesday night, he’ll deliver the address himself — and White House press secretary Jen Psaki just hinted at what he’ll say.
The address comes at a very challenging time for Biden, who is weighed down by public disapproval of his handling of the economy and the pandemic. The address also comes days after Russia opened a bloody war against Ukraine, despite U.S.-led efforts to prevent military conflict.
However, Psaki has insinuated that Biden may strike an optimistic tone during the speech.
“He’ll speak to that, but he’s also going to speak about his optimism, about what’s ahead and what we all have to look forward to,” Psaki told George Stephanopoulos on ABC News.
“If you look back when President Obama gave his first State of the union, it was during the worst financial crisis in a generation. When President Bush gave his first State of the Union, it was shortly after 9/11. Leaders lead during crises. That’s exactly what president Biden is doing.”
Whether times are good or bad, presidents generally have been consistent in opening these speeches by declaring that “the state of our union is strong ” or words very much like it.
The White House wouldn’t tell in advance how Biden plans to open the speech.
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Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, thinks Biden should go further and acknowledge at the outset that people are feeling pinched by rising prices for everyday staples like food and gas.
“Say the state of the union is strong and say why he thinks that,” Perry said, “but then admit that people are feeling pain and say what he’s doing to try and correct that.”
Sure enough, Biden will “absolutely use the word inflation” and talk about his plans for reducing costs, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, according to The Associated Press. He’ll also call on Congress to act on his now-stalled proposals for lowering the cost of child care, elder care and prescription drugs, she said.
Psaki told Fox News that Biden will hammer his plan to stabilize prices.
She also told ABC News that Biden will explain the U.S. role in Russia’s war against Ukraine, including rallying the West to support the Ukrainian people, who want to remain independent.
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Psaki also hinted at a possible announcement for new sanctions on Russia.
“A range of options remain on the table,” Psaki told Fox News on Tuesday. “We’re already seeing an enormous impact on the financial markets in Russia, but we don’t want to destabilize the global markets or the markets for the American people.”
She also expects Biden to whip up some optimism.
“There’s no question that in the State of the Union the American people and anybody watching around the world will hear the president talking about the efforts he has led over the past several months to build a global coalition to fight against the autocracy and the efforts of President Putin to invade a foreign country,” Psaki told ABC News. “But what people will also hear from President Biden is his optimism and his belief in the resilience of the American people and the strength of the American people.”
However, on Fox News, Psaki revealed clearly revealed one thing: Biden will not wear a mask.
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Mask-wearing will be optional for those attending the address, in keeping with the CDC’s new guidelines. That’s thanks to updated mask guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week due to a sharp drop in cases, hospitalizations and deaths caused by the omicron strain of the coronavirus.
COVID-19 tests and social distancing measures will still be required of attendees. Face coverings were required last year when he addressed Congress.
At least a half dozen lawmakers, including Reps. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., both members of the committee investigating last year’s Capitol riot, and Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., were not expected for the speech after they reported positive COVID-19 tests.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, said he would skip the speech rather than participate in what he called COVID “theater.” “I’m just not taking any more COVID tests unless I’m sick,” he said.
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The speech is set for 9 p.m. EST and will be broadcast by the major networks and cable news TV channels. The White House plans to stream it at WH.gov/live, as well as on its YouTube, Facebook and Twitter pages. Live coverage will also be provided by C-SPAN, C-SPAN Radio and C-SPAN.org. NPR is streaming the speech on its website, npr.org, and on its app, in addition to offering live coverage to its member radio stations.
It’s one of the largest audiences Biden will command this year. An estimated 26.9 million people across 16 television networks watched his address to a joint session of Congress last year, which was not a State of the Union speech. That was the smallest audience for the yearly presidential speech since at least 1993.
Watch Psaki’s interviews here —
The Horn News and The Associated Press contributed to this article.