Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report — Biden speech to hail ‘historic’ bipartisan strides

FILE – President Joe Biden speaks on the January jobs report in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, in Washington. Going into Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Biden sees a nation with its future aglow. Republicans take a far bleaker view. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Editor’s note: The Hill’s Morning Report is our daily newsletter that dives deep into Washington’s agenda. To subscribe, click here or fill out the box below.

President Biden’s speech tonight will include plenty of references to the economy, previews of presidential campaign themes and clarifications added by speechwriters about the Chinese spy balloon.

Special guests seated in the first lady’s box — including Bono; Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova; Paul Pelosi; and working Americans from 16 states, many who encountered the president during his travels — will pop up in the text as inspirational touchstones for favored issues (prompting cheers that may sound more resounding at times than the enthusiasm in the room for the president).

“In two years, the president has overseen a historic [economic] recovery and laid the foundation for steady and stable growth in the years to come” — The White House.

House Republicans will largely stay seated and Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who will shake hands with Biden before the president begins his speech just a few feet in front of him, will be studied for every facial expression beginning at 9 p.m. ET.

For any president, the State of the Union address is an important political and agenda-setting tool. For an 80-year-old chief executive poised to launch a reelection campaign and stuck with ho-hum job approval ratings, it’s a rare chance to reach Americans unfiltered, unedited and on a stage he knows well.

For two terms during the Obama era, Biden clapped from the seat filled tonight by Vice President Harris. He will exchange quick handshakes with members of the House and Senate he’s long known. The work ahead, however, has less to do with legislating than winning over voters who are unsure Biden should even seek a second term, report The Hill’s Brett Samuels and Alex Gangitano.

Senate Democrats who hold the majority are in a position to help Biden with his aims amid divided government, but they are intensely focused on how tough it will be in 2024 to have 23 of their seats in play, including seats in red states (The Hill).

The president plans this week to travel to Madison, Wis., in a battleground state, and Florida, home to former President Trump, who is the only announced GOP presidential candidate, and Sunshine State conservative Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is eyeing a 2024 White House bid amid strong showings in a string of polls. Biden will talk about protecting Social Security and Medicare in Tampa.

House Republicans are eager to counter boasts in Biden’s speech, reports The Hill’s Emily Brooks. They want to reach their base of supporters using assertions of wasteful federal spending, runaway debt and inflation, a border crisis and rising crime, and administration missteps with Russia and China. They are preparing investigative hearings they hope will support conservative accusations against the FBI, Hunter Biden and the president’s motives in retaining (and quickly returning) classified documents.

The Hill: The U.S. intelligence community, not the Pentagon, detected previous Chinese spy balloons approaching or above the United States but not until after the fact, Gen. Glen VanHerck, the head of U.S. Northern Command, said Monday. The threats were detected through intelligence information collection subsequent to the events. The U.S. didn’t learn about Chinese balloon intrusions that occurred during the Trump administration until after the former president had left office (Bloomberg News).

The Hill: The Chinese balloon ordeal could overshadow Biden’s State of the Union message.

Stars & Stripes: Earlier Chinese surveillance balloon sightings or detection occurred near Texas, Florida, Hawaii and Guam. The incidents near Hawaii and Guam were reported prior to last week’s events.

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The Hill: Five questions ahead of tonight’s presidential address.

The Hill: Five things Biden is likely to say and not say during tonight’s speech.

The Hill: Biden’s post-midterm honeymoon shows signs of ending.

Vox: The history of State of the Union speeches, explained.

The Wall Street Journal: During his speech, Biden will urge quadrupling a new 1 percent tax on stock buybacks.



McCarthy on Monday spoke at the Capitol ahead of the State of the Union, offering a “prebuttal” of sorts, urging Biden to enter negotiations with Republicans on a “responsible” debt limit increase that avoids any U.S. payment default while also addressing the country’s longer-term fiscal challenges. McCarthy, speaking a full 24 hours before Biden’s speech, sought to get ahead of the president and reinforce his role as the leading congressional negotiator.

“We need a different approach — no drawing lines in the sand and saying ‘it’s my way or the highway,’” the Speaker said. “But most of all, no blank checks for runaway spending.”

McCarthy on Monday laid out broad principles but offered no specifics on spending cuts. The White House in a statement called congressional Republicans’ priorities “utterly backwards.”

While Biden and McCarthy met last week to discuss the nation’s $31.4 trillion debt ceiling, the two remain deadlocked on the issue. The White House said the president will discuss federal spending cuts with Republicans but only after the debt ceiling is lifted, while the Speaker said Republicans will lift the ceiling only if Biden agrees to spending cuts (Reuters and Bloomberg News).

Vox: Republicans struggle to get their act together for a debt limit deal.

Roll Call: McCarthy, House Republicans reframe debt limit strategy.

The Hill: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the economy is strong and every “responsible” member of Congress should raise the nation’s debt ceiling without costly brinkmanship. “You don’t have a recession when you have 500,000 jobs and the lowest unemployment rate in more than 50 years,” she said on Monday. “What I see is a path in which inflation is declining significantly, and the economy is remaining strong.” 

GOP lawmakers are planning to probe the Biden administration for what they are calling a failure to protect national security when a Chinese spy balloon flew over the U.S. for several days before it was shot down, writes The Hill’s Brad Dress. Biden is under pressure from both sides of the aisle to take action to ensure that similar incidents don’t occur again and potentially retaliate against the apparent Chinese incursion into U.S. airspace. There are also many questions still unanswered — such as why the Trump administration was apparently unaware of previous balloon sightings under its watch. 

Politico: Congressional centrists plot deal-cutting course in divided government.

House Republicans are gearing up to grill former Twitter employees at a hearing Wednesday, escalating their accusations that social media companies are censoring content with an anti-conservative bias. As The Hill’s Rebecca Klar reports, the hearing will largely be based around the “Twitter Files” released at the end of last year about how the company handled a decision around moderating the spread of a story about the president’s son, Hunter Biden, during the 2020 election. The tweets revealed in the thread largely showed internal debates among employees over the decision and lacked details of influence from Democrats. 

Nonetheless, the thread fueled a chorus of outrage from the GOP who are now using their House leadership to dig into the debate. Meanwhile, Democrats may have their own set of questions to press Twitter’s former Chief Legal Officer Vijaya Gadde, former Deputy General Counsel James Baker, and former head of trust and safety Yoel Roth on based on scrutiny about Elon Musk’s takeover of the company and overall handling of misinformation online. 

The Hill: Biden needs to address sweeping tech layoffs, Big Tech backers say.

As Republican lawmakers from states such as Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Kentucky chair or sit on top of some of the House’s most high-profile committees, their influence can benefit their constituencies depending on their specific needs and offer a more direct opportunity for lawmakers to see their states’ interests addressed. The Hill’s Caroline Vakil and Nick Robertson have rounded up the states whose Republican lawmakers have benefited the most in the new House GOP majority.  


Up and down the ballot, Republicans are increasingly turning to more traditionally qualified candidates to fill out their 2024 roster, hoping to bounce back from a series of disappointing losses by outsiders in last year’s midterm elections. The Hill’s Max Greenwood and Julia Manchester write that while populist outsiders and inexperienced candidates steamrolled their way to the top of the GOP over the course of more than a decade — reflecting a sense of anti-establishment fervor among the party’s disaffected grassroots — now some Republicans believe that the era of the outsider may be coming to an end. 

The Washington Post: Can Biden 2020 his way to victory in 2024?

Politico: A house divided: The mega-donor couple battling in the GOP’s civil war.

Roll Call opinion: What my 2009 interview with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) tells me about 2024.

Politico: Trump’s 2024 game plan: Be the dove among the hawks.

Meanwhile, as House Republicans aim to use their majority to divide Democrats on toxic political issues, they’ve found early success rehashing an old idea: the “horrors” of socialism. House GOP leaders staged a vote Thursday on a resolution condemning socialism as a fundamental threat to the foundations of American independence — a proposal that split Democrats and provided a potentially potent new attack line for GOP candidates heading into the 2024 elections, reports The Hill’s Mike Lillis and Mychael Schnell. While a majority of Democrats voted in favor of the measure, 100 members of the 212-member caucus declined to endorse it. And GOP leaders wasted no time pouncing when the tally was final. 

“That wasn’t a college vote on a college campus. That was a vote in the U.S. Congress that 100 Democrats couldn’t say socialism was wrong,” McCarthy told reporters in the Capitol. “That’s a scary point of view.” 

The New York Times: Harris is trying to define her vice presidency. Even her allies are tired of waiting.

The Hill: Allies defend Harris after critical New York Times piece.



Rescuers in Turkey and Syria are desperately combing the rubble in search of survivors after a series of powerful earthquakes killed more than 5,000 people, as of reports this morning. The temblors collapsed thousands of buildings and created a humanitarian disaster in an area of the world already wracked by war, a refugee crisis, deep economic troubles and cold temperatures. The initial magnitude 7.8 earthquake, which struck in the early hours of Monday, according to the United States Geological Survey, was also felt in Cyprus, Egypt, Israel and Lebanon. Since then, dozens of aftershocks, including an unusually strong 7.5 magnitude tremor, have struck Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said almost 3,000 buildings collapsed across his country, where more than 1,760 people died and 5,000 people were injured (The New York Times and Reuters). 

“We do not know where the number of dead and injured can go,” he said.

The New York Times: Rescues typically happen within three days of an earthquake, an expert said. The logistics of finding survivors in Turkey and Syria are daunting.

The Washington Post: A dire situation in northwest Syria: Devastating quake amid civil war.

The Hill: Why the earthquake in Turkey, Syria was so devastating.

The New York Times: Mapping the damage from the earthquakes.

BBC: Turkey earthquake: Death toll could increase eightfold, the World Health Organization says.

Ukraine’s outgoing defense minister has said the country is anticipating a new Russian offensive later this month. At a news conference, Oleksiy Reznikov said not all Western weaponry will have arrived by then but Ukraine had enough reserves to hold off Russian forces (BBC). The impact of Russia’s stepped-up assault is already being felt in the towns and villages along the hundreds of miles of undulating eastern front.

Exhausted Ukrainian troops say they are already outnumbered and outgunned, even before Russia has committed the bulk of its roughly 200,000 newly mobilized soldiers, while the civilians in the region once again face the agonizing decision of whether to leave or to stay and wait out the coming calamity (The New York Times).

The Guardian: U.N. chief fears world is heading towards “wider war” over Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Reuters: Ukraine reports record Russian deaths as Moscow presses offensive in east.

The New York Times’s “The Daily” podcast unpacked the significance of the Chinese spy balloon incident at this point in President Xi Jinping’s tenure and its impact on frayed diplomatic relations between China and the United States. 

NPR: This wasn’t the first Chinese balloon over the U.S. Why were the others ignored?

The Hill: What we know about Chinese balloon sightings during the Trump presidency.


■ How should an older president think about a second term? From Eisenhower to Biden, questions of age have persisted, by Jeffrey Frank, The New Yorker Daily Comment.

■ America’s distrust of Washington is a five-alarm political crisis, by Douglas E. Schoen and Carly Cooperman, opinion contributors, The Hill.


📲 Ask The Hill: Share a news query tied to an expert journalist’s insights: The Hill launched something new and (we hope) engaging via text with Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack. Learn more and sign up HERE.

The House will convene at 10 a.m. The House chamber is the setting at 9 p.m. ET for the State of the Union address.

The Senate meets at 3 p.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of DeAndrea Benjamin to be a United States circuit judge for the 4th Circuit. 

The president will deliver a State of the Union speech at 9 p.m. ET in the Capitol.  

The vice president will attend the State of the Union event in the Capitol.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck at the State Department at 2 p.m. He will meet with Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg at 4:30 p.m. The secretary will attend Biden’s speech at the Capitol tonight.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will meet with Germany’s Habeck and French Foreign Minister Bruno LeMaire to discuss various issues, including clean energy and Ukraine. The secretary will attend the president’s speech tonight in the Capitol.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will speak at noon at an event organized by the Economic Club of Washington. David Rubenstein, the co-founder and co-chairman of the Carlyle Group, will interview Powell at the event.

First lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will attend the State of the Union event tonight, along with invited guests, Cabinet officials and some Supreme Court justices.



🚆 Authorities in Ohio and Pennsylvania on Monday supervised the release of toxic chemicals from five derailed train cars to reduce the threat of an explosion. Armed with modeling information, the governors in both states ordered immediate evacuations for a 1-mile-by-2-mile area surrounding East Palestine, Ohio. Ahead of the controlled release of vinyl chloride, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) urged residents to heed warnings about potential lethal fumes and life-threatening hazards following a rail accident that began days ago.

About 50 Norfolk Southern train cars carrying products ranging from wheat and malt liquor to hazardous materials derailed on Friday night in a fiery crash near the Pennsylvania state line. The train with three crew members on board was traveling from Madison, Ill., to Conway, Pa. A mechanical problem with a rail car axle caused the crash, according to federal investigators (USA Today and WTAE).

Meanwhile, a minor 3.8 magnitude earthquake shook western New York Monday morning, according to The New York Times

NBC News: In Maryland, the FBI last week arrested two people in a foiled plot to attack Baltimore’s power grid. One is a known 27-year-old neo-Nazi leader. Federal authorities described the alleged plot as “racially or ethnically motivated.” More than 61 percent of Baltimore residents are Black.

🚰 The federal government will likely intervene in a squabble among seven states, including California, over how to share reductions in Colorado River water consumption, Arizona’s water chief told The Hill. Two competing proposals are so different that the government may be the final arbitrator, either with a unilateral solution or a combination of imposed and voluntary measures, The Hill’s Sharon Udasin reports.

“We will continue to try to get an agreement,” said Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources. “The path we’re on seems like the federal government’s going to step in.” 


Platforms such as TikTok and Instagram have become an alternative resource to share history lessons and discuss issues that students may not cover in school, writes The Hill’s Cheyanne M. Daniels, including issues of race, gender identity and sexuality. Jay Colby, a 29-year-old Houston resident, runs one of those accounts. In 2020, Colby started Black History Unlocked, an Instagram account that delves into the contributions, inventions and struggles of Black people around the world. 

“We try to cover Black history from all different viewpoints and not just one time period or one country,” Colby said. “A lot of these stories are not being told and you wouldn’t necessarily know this information if you didn’t do the deep research yourself,” Colby added. “So when [people] see them, it can be shocking. That’s what I think the appeal is.” 

The Hill: Texas governor unveils plan for a statewide government TikTok ban.

The Washington Post: Some see liberal arts education as elitist. Why it’s really pragmatic.

Parents trust Democrats over Republicans when it comes to K-12 education, according to a new poll commissioned by the National Parents Union (NPU). The poll, released ahead of the State of the Union, found that 46 percent of surveyed parents trust Democrats to lead primary education policy, while 38 favor Republicans and 16 percent are undecided.

“Damn right we’re worried about this country and what lies ahead for our children,” NPU President Keri Rodrigues told The Hill. “Parent voters have run out of patience for politicians that allow poisonous politics to interfere with delivering on their promise of solutions.”


Twenty-one states legalized recreational use of marijuana, but policymakers failed to mull its effects on public health. Health risks raise the prospect of increased regulation and oversight (Politico). “One of the reasons I have fought so hard to be able to legalize, regulate and tax is because I want to keep this out of the hands of young people. It has proven negative consequences for the developing mind,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Capitol Hill’s unofficial cannabis czar.

Vox examines what an abortion hotline reveals about reproductive care after Roe. Linda Prine, a physician and co-founder of the Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline, describes the new realities for patients in states where the procedure is banned.

The Washington Post: Patients who need intravenous nutrition supplies at home fear dangerous shortages.

Axios: California is no longer pursuing a K-12 COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The New York Times: The COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers ends Friday in New York City. Vaccination and boosting for municipal workers will be optional.

The New York Times: A 66-year-old Iowa woman on Jan. 3 was taken to a funeral home where employees discovered her in a body bag gasping for air. The Alzheimer’s care center that declared her dead was fined $10,000.

The Hill: “Tripledemic” infected nearly 40 percent of households, survey finds.

Information about the availability of COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots can be found at

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,111,678. Current U.S. COVID-19 deaths are 3,452 for the week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The CDC shifted its tally of available data from daily to weekly, now reported on Fridays.)


And finally … The newest moons around Jupiter discovered by lunar hunters using telescopes in Hawaii and Chile look like pearls dangling in space. Astronomers announced 12 new ones on Friday, making the planet the most moon-accessorized in our solar system, thanks to an updated count of 92 (CBS News and USA Today).

The European Space Agency in April will send a spacecraft to study some of those moons — and, of course, Jupiter, a giant orb that appears striped and color-washed in cold, windy clouds of ammonia and water in an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium. NASA next year will launch the Europa Clipper to explore Jupiter’s moon of the same name, which may harbor an ocean beneath its frozen crust.

Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, and Saturn are each surrounded by small moons believed to be fragments of once bigger moons that collided with one another or with comets or asteroids. Uranus has 27 confirmed moons, Neptune has 14 and Mars, two.  

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Tags debt ceiling default Donald Trump Earthquake economy Hunter Biden Inflation Kevin McCarthy Morning Report Ohio train SOTU Spy balloon State of the Union Syria Turkey

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