Watch: Biden delivers 2023 State of the Union address

President Biden is en route to Capitol Hill where he will deliver his second State of the Union address at 9 p.m. Eastern time, attempting to convince skeptical Americans that they are better off than when he took office two years ago.

Biden plans to highlight his economic track record, including a trio of bills he signed into law and spending trillions of dollars on repairing the country’s decrepit infrastructure, fighting climate change, lowering the cost of prescription drugs and boosting domestic manufacturing will contribute. He will also seek to confront his leadership in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where GOP members have vowed to be a roadblock for the remainder of Biden’s term and have vowed to investigate both the president’s administration and his family.

“My economic plan is about investing in places and people that have been forgotten,” Biden will say, according to excerpts released by the White House ahead of the speech. “Jobs are coming back [and] Pride comes back because of the choices we’ve made over the past two years. This is a blue collar blueprint to rebuild America and make a real difference in your life.”

The president has yet to announce whether he will officially run for re-election, but advisers say he will make a decision in the next few months. The prime-time speech gives him a chance to introduce what is expected to be his biggest audience this year. An estimated 38.2 million viewers tuned in to his first State of the Union address, according to Nielsen ratings.

Biden will face both old and new challenges ahead of a Congress no longer controlled by his party. The President is in front a special investigator investigation whether he mishandled classified documents, and House Republicans are stepping up their own scrutiny efforts. Biden is also trying to unite Western allies and the American public behind continued support for Ukraine as the Russian invasion slides into a second year. And two recent mass shootings in California, along with the brutal killing of a black man by Memphis police, have served as a stark reminder that Democrats have failed to pass an assault weapons ban or police reform measures in the face of GOP opposition.

A State of the Union address “is an impossible speech for a president,” said William Howell, an American politics professor at the University of Chicago. “It’s a speech that must politically deal with many competing claims, and it comes at a time of acute uncertainty about the state of the world and the economy.”

Biden will balance the economy of the public Fear of a more optimistic progress message, according to Brian Deese, the president’s chief economic adviser. The pandemic has receded, and the COVID-19 public health emergency is scheduled to expire in May. Employers added more than half a million jobs in January, while the unemployment rate fell to 3.4%, the lowest level in over half a century, according to Labor Department data released on Friday.

“Two years ago, our economy began to falter. As I stand here tonight, we’ve created a record 12 million new jobs — more jobs created in two years than any president has ever created in four years,” Biden will say.

The president will take the podium with one of his biggest challenges peering over his shoulder: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) is in a standoff with Biden over the federal deficit and has refused to raise the debt ceiling increase unless the President commits to unspecified cuts in future spending. If the two leaders fail to reach an agreement, the US would default on its debt, disrupting financial markets and wreaking havoc on the economy.

Biden plans to use the bully pulpit to address the impasse, making it clear that “honoring the full confidence and credit of the United States” is an obligation “of everyone who holds a trust office,” Deese told reporters Monday.

Despite recent job gains and signs that inflation is easing, recent polls show the public remains largely pessimistic about Biden’s job performance. The President’s approval rating remains stubbornly at 42%, broadly unchanged from his last State of the Union address a year ago (41%).

Since taking office, Biden has urged his party to apply the lessons of the Obama years by clearly communicating his achievements to voters — a strategy his former boss hesitated to adopt after the passage of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

But the White House Biden is also struggling to convince voters that he has lived up to his promise to make their lives easier. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday found that 62% of Americans say Biden did not accomplish “a great deal” or “little or nothing” in his first two years in office, compared with 36% who say he did “a great deal” or achieved “a lot”.

Just 37% of Democrats said they want Biden to seek a second term, a notable drop from the 52% who said the same thing ahead of November’s midterm elections, according to a published poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research revealed found Monday.

Though Biden risks losing touch with voters’ economic concerns, every State of the Union address is an important moment “to pretty aggressively tell the positive story,” said Michael Waldman, a senior speechwriter for former President Clinton four State of the Union addresses and two inaugural addresses.

“The public often doesn’t believe good news,” Waldman said, noting that “public perception often falls quite short of reality.”

The audience will contain visual reminders of policy goals that have remained unattainable for Democrats. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have urged Congress to resume talks on reforming police accountability following the fatal attack on Tire Nichols by five Memphis police officers. RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, Nichols’ mother and stepfather, are expected to attend the speech.

Brandon Tsay, who disarmed the Monterey Park gunman as he entered a second dance studio, is also said to be at the address, while Biden urges Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban. Biden signed a bipartisan gun safety law into law in June after a shooting at a mass school in Texas. The bill increased background checks for younger gun buyers and expanded an existing law preventing domestic abusers from buying guns.

A total of 26 guests who “embody issues or issues to be addressed during the speech” have been invited to sit with First Lady Jill Biden, the White House said in a statement Tuesday. Oksana Markarova, Ambassador of Ukraine to the US, U2 frontman and Irish rock star Bono, and Paul Pelosi, husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) are among the attendees.

Some of these guests will also appear in the president’s call for Congress to work together on four bipartisan issues he spoke about last year: fighting cancer, improving veteran health care, tackling the opioid crisis and providing more mental health services.

“If we were able to work together at the last congress, there is no reason why we cannot work together at this new congress. The people sent us a clear message,” Biden will tell Republican lawmakers. “Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict gets us nowhere.”

Most presidents face a divided Congress after their first midterm election. But in Biden’s case, November’s election wasn’t much of a rebuke from his administration. Democrats kept House losses well below historical averages and won a Senate seat. The president’s party also won two governorships and control of four other state legislatures.

White House officials say one reason for that result was Biden’s ability to draw a clear distinction between former President Trump and the right-wing Republicans who support him. He’ll likely highlight that contrast again as he prepares to fight House Republicans over the next two years and hints at a re-election campaign. GOP members, who have raised eyebrows in recent months, will provide the visual contrast the president will be looking for, Waldman said.

“Presidents are very aware of how every word and comma is used — who’s going to cheer, who’s going to scowl,” Waldman said. “Any time the camera pans to George Santos or Marjorie Taylor Greene, it’s a win. He has some foils to play against.” Watch: Biden delivers 2023 State of the Union address

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