by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The goal of President Biden’s State of the Union Address Tuesday: reset his presidency after one of the worst inaugural years in American history. Mission unaccomplished.
How bad was 2021? Biden’s omissions in the State of the Union were telling. He didn’t mention last summer’s catastrophic Afghanistan withdrawal. Dr. Anthony Fauci didn’t come up. The phrase “Build Back Better” never crossed Biden’s lips. Instead, he talked about “building a better America” — subtle, I know. Biden focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, his two legislative successes, and a host of proposals that have little chance of passing a closely divided Congress in an election year.
The two major bills he signed into law are no trifle. The $2 trillion American Rescue Plan was a massive expansion of government that many economists believe helped fuel the inflation ripping through America’s economy. The $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was a rare example of both parties reaching a compromise on an issue several presidents have tried to resolve. Importantly, the success of the infrastructure plan undermined legislative support for the $4 trillion Build Back Better law, which Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) pronounced dead last December.
Not that you could tell Build Back Better is dead from Biden’s speech. He repeated the same proposals he’s been talking about all year, without the “Build Back Better” branding. Biden’s plan is no more likely to pass this year than last. This lengthy portion of his speech was directed to his Democratic base. Stands to reason. It’s all he has left.
That base won’t be enough to salvage Biden’s dismal job-approval rating, however. Nor will it rescue the Democrats from the shellacking awaiting them in November.