PREVIEW - Biden Set To Deliver SOTU Speech With National Mood Dark, Congress Divided

WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 07th February, 2023) President Joe Biden is set deliver his second State of the Union address just as polls show voter dissatisfaction running high amid inflation concerns, a bitter debt ceiling fight, and rising tensions with superpowers Russia and China.

Biden will deliver the annual address at 9:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday night before a joint session of Congress. The US Constitution mandates the president to update Congress "from time to time" on the State of the Union, a speech also referred to simply as the "SOTU."

The speech provides a sitting president an opportunity to outline accomplishments and the agenda for the rest of the term. Although this is Biden's second State of the Union address, he did deliver a speech to a joint session of Congress in April 2021 shortly after taking office.

The administration will designate at least one "designated survivor" - a cabinet member who will be housed in a secure location during the speech who would presumably run the government in case a catastrophe hinders the president and his successors. Last year's designated survivor was Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

After Biden's speech the Republicans will provide a brief response address, which will be delivered by former Trump administration press secretary, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

PESSIMISM, BALLOON-GATE HAUNT SOTU

This time around Biden faces a divided Congress, with Republicans now controlling the House of Representatives, which the Party of Lincoln seized in the midterm elections.

Biden hopes to deflect attention from high inflation by highlighting job gains while contrasting his style of leadership with Republican rivals. However, Biden faces a tall order as the speech comes amid a souring national mood and embarrassing foreign policy foibles.

According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll some 60% of Americans do not believe Biden has accomplished much despite the passage of numerous bills, citing high gasoline prices and untamed inflation. In addition, over 41% said they were poorer than in January 2021, the highest level recorded since measurement began in 1986, the pollster said.

Meanwhile, although the president is expected to outline the case for a 2024 re-election bid during the speech, an AP-NORC Center survey released on Monday found nearly 80 percent of potential voters do not want Biden to run again.

In addition to that - an embarrassing escalation in tensions with Beijing over the discovery of a Chinese surveillance balloon traversing the US, which was shot down off the east coast on Sunday, has sent Biden speechwriters scrambling to change the SOTU address, NBC reported citing people familiar with the matter.

A draft of the speech for weeks had a section on Biden's approach to China, but those are now undergoing edits in light of the media frenzy over the spy balloon, the report said.

Republicans slammed the Biden administraton for not immediately downing the balloon last week when it was first discovered hovering over Montana. They are now looking to use the incident to undercut him ahead of SOTU.

"Hard to say the State of the Union is 'strong' when our commander-in-chief lets a Chinese spy balloon fly across our entire country before doing anything about it," Congressman Jim Jordan said in a tweet on Monday.

The Biden administration and Republicans continue to haggle over raising the US debt ceiling, currently at $31.4 trillion, something the president has said is "non-negotiable."

White House economic adviser Brian Deese on Monday told reporters the president during the SOTU address will highlight the "bedrock idea" that the US meets its financial obligations - something he said should not be used as a bargaining chip.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, meanwhile, in a preemptive strike ahead of Biden's big speech, called on the administration to work with Republicans to raise the ceiling in a "responsible" way.

The White House on Monday said the president during the speech will argue that the state of the US economy is "strong," and underscore the record jobs growth under his administration.

He will also discuss progress in cutting drug costs and insurance premiums and how Biden helped the economy bounce back from the pandemic.

"He will outline the manufacturing boom across the country - in infrastructure, semi-conductors, and clean energy," the White House said in fact sheet ahead of the speech. "Since President Biden took office, the economy has created more than 12 million jobs - including more than 800,000 manufacturing jobs - and the unemployment rate is at a 54-year low, including near record lows for Black workers."

The president will announce proposed guidance to ensure construction materials - like copper, aluminum, and lumber - are made in America. In addition, he will preview the budget being sent to Congress on March 9 that includes investments to boost health care and social security, according to the White House.

He will also call on Congress to pass a "billionaire minimum tax" and surcharges on corporate stock buybacks, the release said.

According to Politico, citing aides, the president will also outline why it is important to continue sustained US support for Ukraine and will urge Republicans to ignore factions within their own party that oppose it.

In the wake of a series of mass shootings, the president is also expected to call on Congress again to pass a ban on assault weapons.

Political commentator and former hedge fund manager Charles Ortel believes the president is likely to demand a "clean increase" in the debt ceiling while touting his fight against climate change and efforts to promote social justice.

Biden, Ortel added, would also likely follow his trademark campaigning style of attacking his opponents to distract attention from the failures of his own administration.

"He will gaslight MAGA Republicans and critics for failing to understand the wisdom and great accomplishment of an administration recklessly involved in deficit spending and increasing America's towering debt that also seems to be instigating military conflict with Russia, China and across the middle East at the same time," Ortel told Sputnik.