Recap on President Biden’s State of the Union

By LSN Partners on February 9, 2023

In his second State of the Union address, President Joe Biden reviewed his Administration’s achievements thus far and laid out his vision for the remainder of the term. Then, because he understood that he would have to juggle differing priorities from a divided Congress, the President made several new requests to lawmakers.

The President’s speech focused on the laws he and the previous Congress enacted rather than what he plans to accomplish with the House chamber. Specifically, President Biden spent a significant portion of his speech describing the Inflation Reduction Act, which was passed in the last Congress and included climate, tax, and health law provisions.

The Inflation Reduction Act included a $35 cap on insulin copays. However, because of the budget reconciliation process limitations that Democrats used to avoid a Senate filibuster, it only applies to Medicare recipients, not the private market. “Let’s finish the job this time,” Biden said. “Let’s cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month for every American who needs it.” Lawmakers in both parties are interested in passing legislation to do that.

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), who has authored legislation to expand the cap to the private market, said he’s willing to work with any Republican interested in the issue. He noted he was encouraged by legislation recently introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO). Sen. Hawley said his bill would lower the insulin cap for Medicare to $25 and extend it to the private market. He said he’s working on getting more Republicans on board and is optimistic it’s something that could get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.

President Biden also highlighted the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). This law authorized over $1.2 billion for infrastructure and transportation projects across the country. While speaking about this accomplishment, President Biden doubled down on his Administration’s “Buy America” provisions concerning the BIL, saying: “All construction materials on new federal infrastructure projects must be made in America, including lumber, drywall, and fiber optic cable.”

It is noteworthy that the President’s speech did not present significant new proposals, thereby reflecting the reality of a divided Congress. However, he advocated for action on bipartisan consensus issues, such as antitrust legislation focused on the tech industry, competition with the People’s Republic of China, and policing reform.

On tech policy, President Biden said that Congress needs to “pass bipartisan legislation to strengthen antitrust enforcement and prevent big online platforms from giving their own products an unfair advantage.” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., was pleased to hear the President advocate for antitrust legislation, an issue she has championed and one she hopes Congress can finally pass this Congress.

Finally, the President drew a strong Republican reaction – this time loud boos and jeers – when he accused them of trying to go after Social Security and Medicare in their negotiations over raising the federal debt ceiling. After seeing the GOP deny the claims, Biden stated there was “unanimity” on not touching the popular entitlement programs, which drew a bipartisan standing ovation.