Explainer-State of the Union 2023: When is Biden speaking and what do you need to know?
By Trevor Hunnicutt and Nandita Bose
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden will on Tuesday deliver his State of the Union address three months after Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, a speech that may mark the unofficial start of the 2024 presidential campaign season.
Here is what to expect.
When is the state of the union?
Biden will deliver his second State of the Union address at about 9 p.m. (0200 GMT Wednesday). It will be broadcast live on major U.S. broadcast television networks and online by the White House and the House of Representatives.
Why is it important?
The speech could deliver Biden his largest television audience of the year. An estimated 38.2 million people watched the speech on U.S. television last year, according to data provider Nielsen.
That audience will give Biden a chance to shape public perceptions of the debt limit, social spending, the Russian war in Ukraine and other topics as he plans to announce his re-election campaign in the coming weeks.
It also gives him an opportunity to shore up support among Democrats, some of whom are concerned about his age and other issues. Biden turned 80 in November and, if re-elected, would be 82 at the beginning of a second term.
What is biden expected to say?
He is expected to tout economic progress following the COVID-19 recession, draw sharp contrasts with the priorities of some Republican opponents and call for new taxes on billionaires and corporate stock buybacks that are unlikely to pass Congress.
Biden will also lay out “unity” agenda items that he believes should bring the two main parties together, including battling cancer and the opiod epidemic.
The speech is weeks in the making and subject to many drafts between Biden, his speechwriters and various political and policy officials in the administration.
Last year, Biden’s speech came just days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and focused heavily on explaining the U.S. response.
Who attends the speech?
The speech is delivered during a joint session of Congress. All members of both the Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House are invited. Members of Biden’s Cabinet, the armed forces and the Supreme Court also attend. Partisan outbursts can occur.
Biden was formally invited to give the address in January by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy will preside over the event and be accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris, who is also the president of the Senate.
The president invites family members and other guests who sit in the First Lady’s view box from the balcony. Their presence can amplify points he is making in his speech.
Members of Congress also invite guests.
This year, guests will include the mother and stepfather of Tyre Nichols, the Black man who was fatally beaten by Memphis police officers, who were invited by Congressional Black Caucus chair Representative Steven Horsford.
Missouri Democrat Cori Bush invited Michael Brown Sr., the father of Michael Brown, whose 2014 shooting by a Ferguson police officer helped give birth to the Black Lives Matter movement.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, said he invited Roya Rahmani, who served as Afghanistan’s first female ambassador to the United States, to send a signal to the women of Afghanistan that they had not been forgotten, while Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik will bring Jeffrey Smith, a county sheriff from upstate New York.
Who are biden’s guests?
The ambassador of Ukraine to the United States, Oksana Markarova, was invited by first lady Jill Biden. The White House called it a “recognition of sustained U.S. support for Ukraine nearly a year after Russia launched its unprovoked attack.”
The White House has also invited Paul Pelosi, husband of former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He was attacked by an intruder in their California home in October.
Celebrities have also made the list with Bono, lead singer of Irish band U2, invited for his work to fight HIV/AIDS and poverty.
The White House has also invited Brandon Tsay, who disarmed a gunman responsible for a mass shooting in Monterey Park, California.
Other guests include cancer survivor Darlene Gaffney; Amanda Zurawski who was not able to obtain abortion services due to Texas’s abortion ban and Doug Griffin, who lost his 20-year-old daughter to a fentanyl overdose.
Who is the designated survivor?
One person who does not attend is a single member of Biden’s Cabinet who will be picked as a “designated survivor.” That individual will be housed in a secure location and is tasked with taking over the government in case of a catastrophe that impairs the president and his other successors at the Capitol.
The designated survivor for this year’s speech had not been announced as of Tuesday evening.
Who will give the republican response?
Republicans have picked Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who served as White House press secretary under Donald Trump, to deliver their response. That speech is generally delivered shortly after the president finishes his.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Nandita Bose; Editing by Heather Timmons, Alistair Bell, Robert Birsel and Lincoln Feast)