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White House communications director Kate Bedingfield noted Biden plans to tout bipartisan achievements from his past year in office while promoting his “unity agenda.”
Bedingfield pointed to two bills — one that expanded health care for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances, and another focused on mental health and gun safety — saying their bipartisan passage validated Biden’s “belief that these are areas where politicians in Washington can and should find common ground on behalf of the American people.”
Officials have kept other details close to the vest. Areas to watch closely Tuesday night will be what Biden says about the COVID-19 pandemic as well as efforts focused on shoring up reproductive rights.
This year’s speech is the first since Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court, leaving states to decide whether abortion is legal. The administration scrambled in the wake of the decision, while Biden’s immediate call for Congress to act on the issue fell flat.
Democrats tried to codify Roe twice when they held the majority in both chambers, but the bill never received a vote in the Senate. A divided Congress makes legislative action essentially impossible, but the administration has since taken executive action to expand access to abortion pills and clarify the labeling of Plan B.
In a memo released Tuesday evening, White House spokesman Andrew Bates indicated Biden would hit Republicans who support a national abortion ban as he tries to draw a contrast with the House majority. On COVID-19, we expect Biden to talk about his plan to move the country past the pandemic. His speech comes just a week after the White House said it was ending the public health emergency on May 11.
Unwinding the emergency declaration after three years won’t be easy, and we are interested to see how Biden frames the decision, which is already prompting changes for testing costs. Republicans have long called for the emergency to end.