On Thursday, March 7, 2024, President Joe Biden delivered his annual State of the Union address to Congress. The address, which ran 67 minutes came just two days after the Super Tuesday primaries at which both President Biden and former President Trump secured insurmountable leads in earning their parties’ nomination for November’s general election. Biden’s address centered on what he considers to be historic achievements delivered for the American people and his vision for the future.

Speaker of the House Michael Johnson (R-LA) presided over his first SOTU address; Vice President Kamala Harris was at his side. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona was the evening’s designated survivor.

THE ADDRESS

President Biden opened his address with some historical references, saying, in part, “It’s we who face an unprecedented moment…Not since President Lincoln and the Civil War have freedom and democracy been under assault at home as they are today. What makes our moment rare is that freedom and democracy are under attack at home and overseas at the very same time.” He referred to the Russian-Ukraine war and warned his audience that Russian President Vladimir Putin “will not stop at Ukraine.” He went on to say that America must stand with Ukraine in it cause. He also pointed to the importance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and welcomed new members Finland and Sweden, acknowledging Sweden’s leader, one of the First Lady’s guests.

As expected, he talked about the results and promise of the CHIPS and Science Act, saying the country is investing more in research and development “than ever before.” President Biden said, “During the pandemic – a shortage of semiconductor chips drove up prices for everything – from cell phones to automobiles. Well – instead of having to import semiconductor chips – which America invented…private companies are now investing billions of dollars to build new chip factories here in America! Creating tens of thousands of jobs – many of them paying over $100,000 a year and don’t require a college degree.” He also reminded his audience of the benefits of investments in clean energy and infrastructure during his Administration.

Covering several topics quickly, he touted expanded access to high-speed internet, investments in tribal communities, modernizing roads and bridges, removing hazardous lead pipes, the value and triumphs of unions, and others. The many topics built to the assertion, “When Americans get knocked down – we get back up! And it’s because of you – That tonight – we can proudly say – the State of our Union is strong and getting stronger!”

Looking ahead, President Biden said he sees a future where “We all do well.” He outlined an agenda that included bringing down insulin prices and giving Medicare the power to negotiate prescription drug prices. Biden wants to see Medicare expand that power to 500 drugs over the next decade. Further, he would like to cap prescription drug costs for everyone to $2,000 annually. He also reaffirmed his commitment to the Affordable Care Act and said he’d like to expand it.

Turning to education, President Biden said he’d like to “give every child a good start by providing access to pre-school for 3- and 4-year-olds,” expand “high-quality tutoring” and summer learning time, and ensure every child learns to read by third grade. He would like to connect businesses to high schools to facilitate “good-paying jobs” and wants to “make college more affordable.” He called for increasing Pell Grants as well as “our record investments in HBCUs and Minority-Serving Institutions.” He also touted the benefits of his efforts to “reduce the burden of student debt for nearly four million Americans.”

The subject then became the federal deficit. The President detailed plans to reduce it by $3 trillion “by making big corporations and the very wealthy finally pay their fair share.” He criticized the tax cuts passed during the Trump Administration, saying it “exploded the federal deficit.” He said his plan wouldn’t raise taxes for anyone making less than $400,000 and urged his audience to restore the Child Tax Credit to help working families and reduce child poverty. As he detailed his plans for a “fairer” tax code, he suggested that his plan would result in the possibility to invest in affordable childcare, home and elder care, and paid leave. He also voiced his commitment to protecting and strengthening Social Security.

As expected, he addressed the border security deal that was negotiated by a bipartisan group of lawmakers. He said the result was “the toughest set of border reforms we’ve ever seen in this country.” He outlined what he considers to be the merits of the proposal and said that former President Trump derailed its prospects for passage. He told Republicans in the chamber, “We can fight about the border, or we can fix it. I’m ready to fix it,” urging Congress to send him the bipartisan bill.

He discussed climate change. He plans to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030, create clean-energy jobs, and conserve the country’s lands and waters. He referenced the creation of a Climate Corps “to put 20,000 young people to work at the forefront of our clean energy future” and wants to expand that number to 60,000 this decade.

Acknowledging a young guest in the galley whose sister was killed in the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, President Biden said that in the wake of that tragedy he established the Office of Gun Prevention Violence in the White House.

In the last moments of the address, President Biden called for addressing the fentanyl crisis, supporting veterans, protecting children online and fighting cancer. He referred to his age, saying that he has seen the country navigate varied circumstances, crises and conflicts, and always persevere. He closed by saying, “To lead America, the land of possibilities, you need a vision for the future of what America can and should be.

REPUBLICAN RESPONSE

Senator Katie Britt (R-AL) delivered the Republican response to the President’s address from her kitchen. She opened her remarks by saying, “I’m worried,” for the future of her children. She characterized President Biden as a politician who “doesn’t get it.” She said the country is worse off, less secure, and more unsafe since he took office. She took aim at his border policies, saying President Trump left his successor the “most secure border of all-time” and his decisions created the current crisis, including harrowing instances of human trafficking. She said the country we know is “slipping away” and that the next generation will have fewer opportunities and less freedom. She pointed to inflation and growing national credit card debt, saying families are struggling. She argued that the United States isn’t seen as a strong ally across the globe, saying, “We’ve become a nation in retreat.” She assured her audience that brighter days are ahead for the “party of hardworking parents and families,” and said it is “our moment to stand up and prove ourselves worthy of protecting the American Dream.”

CONCLUSION

President Biden’s prepared remarks are available here. The White House has posted a number of resources related to the speech and its proposals here. After the speech, President Biden and Vice President Harris are traveling to continue to tout the Administration’s achievements and outline its plans for the future. The White House effectively used the speech to launch the narratives that they will attempt to amplify in his re-election campaign.