Biden to address divided Congress during State of the Union
President Biden is set to deliver his second State of the Union address this week to a divided Congress, as the new House GOP majority seeks to stymie his agenda and investigate his family and administration.
The speech — before a joint session of Congress in the House chamber — is scheduled for Tuesday at 9 p.m. Eastern time. It will offer a preview of how Biden will seek to push forward his legislative priorities given the new power dynamics, and whether he will try to find common cause with Republicans in some areas.
The GOP majority will press ahead this week on some of its hot-button issues, with two House committees slated to hold hearings on the southern border, alleged “Weaponization of the Federal Government” and Twitter’s decision to limit the spread of a New York Post story in 2020 pertaining to President Biden’s son Hunter Biden.
Fallout from the downing of a Chinese spy balloon will also be on full display this week, as lawmakers gear up for a classified briefing later in the month.
Biden to deliver State of the Union
With a GOP majority in the House, Biden is unlikely to see significant legislative success in the second half of his term. House Republicans have vowed to investigate the president, his family and members of his administration, seeking to put him on the defensive amid an uphill legislative push.
Those two dynamics will be on full display when the president delivers his State of the Union address on Tuesday, putting him face-to-face with the lawmakers staunchly opposed to his agenda, and the GOP investigators probing his administration.
This week’s speech — Biden’s second State of the Union and third address before a joint session of Congress — will mark the first time Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is seated behind him, taking the spot Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) held the past two years.
The speech comes at a particularly important time for relations between the White House and Capitol Hill, as Washington works to create a path forward on raising the debt ceiling.
The U.S. hit its debt ceiling last month, prompting the Treasury Department to implement extraordinary measures. Those measures are expected to keep the U.S. from defaulting on its debt until June 5, giving lawmakers about four months to come to a consensus on the borrowing limit.
Biden is likely to renew his call for a clean debt ceiling increase during his speech on Tuesday, using his time on the dais to directly address House Republicans who are pushing for spending cuts tied to their support for raising the borrowing limit.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sought to highlight the differences between Democrats and Republicans when previewing Biden’s speech on Sunday, noting that wages were up at the same time that unemployment was at record lows — the U.S. added 517,000 jobs last month.
“And part of what I think you’re going to see on Tuesday, when you see the president’s addressing the nation and the Congress in the State of the Union, is a reminder that this successful approach stands in stark contrast to a strategy that — that would focus on things like preserving tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, looking at cutting Social Security and Medicare, which we’re hearing about from a lot of House Republicans,” Buttigieg said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”
Biden on Tuesday will also likely discuss police reform, following the death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis. Nicholas’s parents will be at the speech after accepting an invitation from Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
House hearings on Hunter Biden, Twitter, the border
The House is set to hold a trio of high-profile hearings this week, zeroing in on the situation at the southern border, Twitter’s role in suppressing the New York Post story about Hunter Biden in 2020 and alleged “Weaponization of the Federal Government,” as the newly minted Republican majority wields its investigative powers.
The House Oversight and Accountability Committee is slated to hold a hearing on Tuesday titled “On The Front Lines of the Border Crisis: A Hearing with Chief Patrol Agents.” Gloria Chavez, the chief patrol agent for the Rio Grande Valley Sector, and John Modlin, the chief patrol agent in the Tucson Sector, are slated to appear as witnesses.
The hearing marks the second in two weeks focused on the situation at the border.
On Wednesday, the Oversight Committee will come together for a hearing on Twitter’s decision to limit the spread of a New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election. Republicans have accused the social media platform of censoring the story for political purposes.
The hearing is titled “Protecting Speech from Government Interference and Social Media Bias, Part 1: Twitter’s Role in Suppressing the Biden Laptop Story.” Three former Twitter employees are slated to testify: Vijaya Gadde, who served as chief legal officer, James Baker, who was the company’s deputy general counsel, and Yoel Roth, the ex-global head of trust and safety.
Finally on Thursday, the newly created Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government will hold its first hearing. The House passed a resolution in a party-line vote last month to create the panel, which is chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who also leads the Judiciary Committee.
The select subcommittee is expected to probe investigations underway at the Justice Department and FBI that focus on former President Trump. It was created in response to calls from some Republicans for a “Church-style” investigation into the FBI, based on the 1970s probe into civil liberties violations by the intelligence community that was led by former Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho).
Fallout from downing of Chinese spy balloon
The U.S. shot down a Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast on Saturday, capping off a days-long saga regarding the balloon that had been floating over the country. A recovery effort began shortly after to gather the remnants of the balloon.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced on Sunday that the full Senate will receive a classified briefing on China on Feb. 15, and a spokesperson for Schumer told The Hill that the Biden administration will brief the Gang of Eight next week on the balloon.
Democrats largely commended the Biden administration over the weekend for its efforts in shooting down the balloon, while some Republicans argued that it acted too slowly — a situation that will likely continue this week.
“As usual when it comes to national defense and foreign policy, the Biden Administration reacted at first too indecisively and then too late,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a member of the Gang of Eight, wrote in a statement Sunday. “We should not have let the People’s Republic of China make a mockery of our airspace.”
“This was a reminder of the [People’s Republic of China’s] brazenness and President Biden missed the opportunity to defend our sovereignty, send a message of strength, and bolster deterrence,” he added.
Alex Bolton contributed.
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