Faced with a stalled Congress and underwater public approval, Biden will try to lay out his agenda in State of the Union address

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State of the Union
Jacquelyn Martin/AP
President Joe Biden talks with Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Colo., after the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington.

President Joe Biden will give his third State of the Union address later this evening. The high-profile address is his opportunity to not only set out an agenda going into the election year but to try and reset the public’s opinion of him.

Given that the 118th Congress has been historically unproductive, Biden is expected to highlight past legislative accomplishments, as well as recent steps his administration has taken to help working-class families, such as cracking down on junk fees.

“The President will focus on his work so far but also an agenda going forward on how he will lower costs,” said Neera Tanden, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. “We know that there's a middle-class squeeze in America, that Americans want more breathing room and as the President has been focused throughout his term, we will see the State of the Union as another opportunity to drive a robust policy agenda to address a range of costs.”

That agenda includes an issue of importance to many Coloradans: housing costs.

Tanden told CPR News Biden will lay out a comprehensive plan that includes increasing the housing supply, as well as making it more affordable to buy a home.

“The President is really focused on build, build, build and build, to create more housing in the country,” said Tanden, adding Biden will also “lay out ideas of how to make it much more affordable for families to be able to purchase really in this moment where interest rates are really high.”

Colorado has a long-running housing shortage that is expected to worsen in the coming years. State-level efforts to increase housing by pushing local communities to accept more density have so far floundered in Colorado.

Tanden acknowledged that housing can be a very local issue, but said there is still a role for the federal government. “We have proposals that provide financial support to localities to not just address creating new units, but also thinking through planning … and really trying to cut through some of the red tape around building more units.”

One other area she highlighted was prescription drugs. She said Biden will likely build on the government’s ability to negotiate some drug prices. She pointed out more than 220,000 Coloradans are currently benefiting from efforts to keep Medicare drug prices down, with an average savings of $451 per recipient.

The president is also expected to highlight how past legislative efforts, from the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to the Democrats’ 2022 climate and tax law have helped rural Americans in particular, from strengthening rural healthcare systems to increasing broadband access.

“It is been a priority for the president to not just support the brick and mortar rural healthcare facilities, but also to help bring in and recruit and train additional staff and help to provide some of those incentives to bring additional medical staff into the rural settings as well,” said Will McIntee, National Rural Engagement Director.

Other topics Biden is expected to address include reducing costs for consumers, promoting competition, and “tax fairness.”

“The President will focus this week, and going forward, on his billionaire minimum tax proposal to make sure that we don't have a tax system where some billionaires are actually paying a lower average tax rate than firefighters and teachers,” said Daniel Hornung, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council.

Following the speech, the White House will be dispatching Cabinet members around the country to try to drive Biden’s points home. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will visit on Friday for a tour of a high-tech window manufacturing facility in Louisville and a conversation with Latino community advocates in Denver.

Alabama Sen. Katie Britt will give the official Republican response to Biden's speech, but some members of her party were already weighing in on Wednesday.

“During his address, President Biden is going to try to suggest that the state of the union is strong, and we expect, as was said, that he's going to say this is a time for reset. But of course, the state of the union is not strong, and everybody around the country knows it,” said House Speaker Mike Johnson. “America is in decline. Nothing that he says (Thursday night) is going to change that.”

Still, Johnson, mindful of past instances of heckling, reportedly reminded the Republican Caucus of the importance of maintaining decorum during this high-profile speech.