Intel chair: China balloon flew over nuke sites; Biden faces divided Congress in SOTU: recap
President Joe Biden will try to convince a divided Congress that Democrats and Republicans must work together when he delivers his second State of the Union address tonight. Fighting the opioid epidemic, improving mental health, supporting veterans and cutting cancer death rates will top that agenda.
Facing dim prospects for major legislative wins, a looming showdown over the federal budget and a GOP House investigating his administration and family, Biden will tout his successes and lay out new proposals.
Look for bipartisanship to be a recurring theme as he touches on the economy, the war in Ukraine, immigration and other issues. The speech, before a joint session of Congress, will serve as a prelude to Biden’s likely reelection bid in 2024.
Here's what else is happening in politics:
Spy balloon flew over nuke, missile sites: House intelligence Chair Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said China’s surveillance balloon maneuvered over sensitive U.S. military sites in addition to the ones in Montana before it was downed.
House GOP investigations ramp up: House Republicans have begun a plethora of probes into Biden and his circle, including a look at Hunter Biden's art.
Embattled Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., will be bringing a former 9/11 volunteer firefighter as his guest to the State of the Union.
State of the Union 2023 live updates: Biden to push for bipartisanship, Democratic priorities
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House intel chairman: China’s spy balloon went to other sensitive missile and nuclear weapons sites
House intelligence committee Chair Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said China’s surveillance balloon maneuvered over sensitive U.S. military sites in addition to the ones in Montana that it passed over before being shot down off the South Carolina coast Saturday.
“If you take the path that this balloon did, and you put up an X every place where you have a missile defense site, actual nuclear weapons infrastructure, you're going to follow this path,” Turner said in a briefing with reporters. “So I think the natural conclusion is it is intelligence gathering with respect to try to affect in some way the command and control of our missile defense and nuclear weapons.”
Turner did not elaborate on that or share other details about the ongoing investigation into China’s balloon, in some cases citing the classified nature of the information. But he said the U.S. intelligence community is scheduled to brief him and other members of congressional leadership who comprise the Gang of Eight later this week on the balloon and efforts to gain any intelligence from the recovery of it.
- Josh Meyer
‘I thought I would not make it alive’: Capitol Police officer assaulted on Jan. 6 testifies in Proud Boys trial
A former U.S. Capitol Police officer described what he believed to be a near-death experience while protecting the Capitol from rioters on Jan. 6, 2021, in testimony during the Proud Boys sedition trial Tuesday.
Mark Ode, who was part of the Capitol Police’s civil disturbance unit on Jan. 6, testified that while attempting to hold a police line, rioters simultaneously pushed him to the ground and sprayed him with an “unknown chemical substance." He fell on his stomach and the rioters piled on top of him.
“I was incapable of moving most of my limbs including my legs...I thought I would not make it alive out of that pile,” Ode said, adding that he struggled to breathe because his face mask had trapped the chemicals and the rioters were using his helmet strap to choke him.
An officer behind him urged him to “stand up” before grabbing his leg and pulling him out of the pile, he recalled.
-- Ella Lee
Biden administration to focus on youth online privacy, mental health in renewed agenda
President Joe Biden is sharpening his focus on the internet’s effect on young people heading into the second half of his first term, the White House said Tuesday.
As part of his ongoing “unity agenda,” Biden will call for Congress to ban targeted online advertising for young people and enact “strong protections” for their online privacy, safety and mental health.
“We know that too many Americans continue to struggle — especially young people, where mounting evidence indicates that social media and other tech or platforms can be harmful to mental health and well-being and developments,” said Christen Linke Young, deputy assistant to the president for health and veterans affairs.
The Biden administration’s fresh focus on technology’s impact on young people comes as Congress considers bipartisan legislation that would ban the social media app TikTok, which more than two-thirds of young people use.
-- Ella Lee
Biden to lay out `forceful approach’ to combatting fentanyl
The Biden administration will launch a national campaign to educate young people on the dangers of fentanyl, part of the “forceful approach” for going after fentanyl trafficking and reducing overdose deaths.
Other steps include:
Using new large-scale scanners to improve efforts to stop fentanyl from being brought into the U.S. through the southern border.
Working with package deliver companies to catch more packages containing fentanyl from being shipped around the country.
Working with Congress to make permanent a temporary tool that that’s helped federal agents crack down on drugs chemically similar to fentany
Republicans have been hammering Biden over the amount of fentanyl coming into the country, calling it a failure of Biden’s ability to control the border.
-- Maureen Groppe
Black Caucus bringing families impacted by police reform to the State of the Union
Member of the Congressional Black Caucus are bringing guests impacted by police violence to the State of the Union tonight.
The parents of Tyre Nichols, will attend the speech at the invitation of the Black Caucus. House Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries also invited Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who died at the hands of a New York police officer choking him. Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., is bringing Michael Brown, Sr., father of Michael Brown, as her guest. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, invited Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, as her guest. Rep. Shontel Brown, D-Ohio, invited Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice, as her attendee.
The Black Caucus has pressed President Joe Biden to address police reform during his speech tonight. “It's imperative that we tackle this issue with legislative solutions, with executive actions and community-based results that work,” said Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., chairman of the CBC, during a press conference Tuesday morning. “That is how we put an end to the pattern of Black lives being taken at the hands of law enforcement.”
-- Mabinty Quarshie
Biden not doing annual presidential interview with network broadcasting the Super Bowl, Fox News
Just like his predecessors, President Joe Biden in the past has taken advantage of the tradition of granting an exclusive interview to the network hosting the Super Bowl to speak directly to the 100 million-plus audience that watches the annual Sunday spectacle worldwide.
Biden did such a sit-down with CBS in 2021 shortly after his inauguration, and with NBC last year, talking to anchor Lester Holt for a lengthy interview that was sliced and diced and used throughout the network’s news programming, including a few minutes during the pre-game show.
But this year, Biden isn’t doing one, apparently because the network broadcasting the Super Bowl is Fox News. Since taking office two years ago, Biden reportedly hasn’t done a formal interview with Fox, and his aides were said to be weighing the potential upsides and downsides of agreeing to an interview with a potentially hostile host. When the question was asked during this morning's call, the White House sidestepped it.
White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield mostly sidestepped the issue on MSNBC’s “The Last Word” Monday night, telling host Lawrence O’Donnell that Biden plans to say as much as possible in another widely viewed venue, tonight’s State of the Union address, which is expected to draw less than half of the Super Bowl audience.
“Well, obviously, we wish as many people as are going to watch the Super Bowl (will) watch the State of the Union,” Kate Bedingfield told “The Last Word” host Lawrence O’Donnell Monday night. “But, you know, 11 percent of the country one night watching television is not insignificant.”
-Josh Meyer and Maureen Groppe
Clashes over border security erupt before House hearing
Partisan fireworks over border-security policy went off even before the start of a House Oversight and Accountability Committee that is scheduled for Wednesday.
Democrats on the panel tweeted the allegation that Republicans would use the hearing to amplify “white nationalist conspiracy theories” rather than a solution to protect borders. And Ian Sams, a White House spokesperson, accused Republicans of “staging a political stunt” rather than addressing the border and fixing the immigration system.
The Republican chairman, Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, said he aimed for productive fact-gathering about record levels of illegal immigration and drug seizures along the border. He called the tweet “very disturbing” and reminded lawmakers not to criticize each other’s personalities or motives.
-- Bart Jansen
How the Supreme Court can make news at the State of the Union
They sit in the front row but the Supreme Court justices who show up to the annual State of the Union are not the focus of the address – until they are.
Generally low key and eager to keep the spotlight as far away as possible, the usually small contingent of Supreme Court justices who attend the president's speech have occasionally found themselves at the center of viral moments on the House floor.
- John Fritze
Biden to outline areas of possible bipartisan cooperation
Facing a divided Congress for the first time in his presidency, President Joe Biden will emphasize areas that Democrats and Republicans can work together in his State of the Union speech, White House officials said in a call previewing the address.
Those areas are: fighting the opioid epidemic, improving mental health, supporting veterans and cutting cancer death rates.
“These are issues that affect all Americans, in red states and blue states,” said Kate Bedingfield, White House Communications Director, “and ones where the American people are counting on their elected officials, no matter their party, to come together and do big things.”
Biden included all the items in the “unity agenda” he outlined in last year’s State of the Union address. The president will talk about progress that’s been made and additional actions he wants to take. That includes banning targeted online advertising for young people as well as “strong limits on targeted advertising and the personal data that companies collect on all Americans.”
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Just 4 of 10 Americans say the state of the union is strong: poll
Ahead of President Joe Biden’s second State of the Union address, a majority of Americans don’t believe the state of the union is strong.
Four in 10 Americans say the state of the union is strong, according to a new Monmouth University poll. Just 7% of Americans believe the state of the union is “very strong,” the poll found.
Over the past five years, the share of Americans who view the state of the union as “at least somewhat strong” has declined 16%, according to the poll.
-- Ella Lee
Paul Pelosi to attend State of the Union after attack caught on video
Paul Pelosi, the 82-year-old husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will be among the guests at the State of the Union.
It will be Paul Pelosi’s first appearance in a joint session of Congress since video was released weeks ago showing his brutal beating with a hammer in late October that required surgery on his head and hand, and a weeklong hospital stay.
Suspect David DePape, 42, pleaded not guilty to all charges in San Francisco on Dec. 28. He is charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse and is scheduled to appear in court again on Feb. 23.
-- Candy Woodall
Santos to bring former 9/11 rescue firefighter to State of the Union
Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., plans to bring a former volunteer firefighter, Michael Weinstock, as his guest to the State of The Union. Weinstock was at Ground Zero during the Sept. 11 attacks Santos previously faced backlash after falsely implying that his mother died that day after being trapped in the South Tower of the World Trade Center when it was struck.
During a speech on the House floor Monday, Santos detailed Weinstock’s neuropathy diagnosis – a result of damage to the nerves near the brain and spinal cord – that has since been tied to 9/11 but has failed to be among the conditions covered by the World Trade Center Health Program despite past efforts to do so, the freshman lawmaker said.
“Michael had been unloading medical equipment out of an ambulance when the south tower crumbled and nearly crushed Michael to death. Today Michael suffers from a painful and incurable disease, neuropathy,” Santos said. “Since the World Trade Center Health Program does not cover neuropathy, people like Michael must pay out of pocket for treatment, medications and other medical needs.”
– Sarah Elbeshbishi
Who are lawmakers bringing to the State of the Union?
Presidents and members of Congress traditionally invite guests to join them at the State of the Union to make a political point or draw attention to an issue that’s important to them.
The White House has announced the first lady's guests who will be joining her in her viewing box for the speech. Several lawmakers also have announced their guests.
Roya Rahmani, the former Afghan ambassador to the United States, is attending as the guest of Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas. Dennis “Freedom” Horton, who along with his brother, Lee Horton, was incarcerated for nearly 28 years for a crime they did not commit, will join Sen. John Fetterman, D-Penn. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is inviting a mother who has experienced firsthand the challenges and setbacks of a lack of quality, affordable child care where she lives.
– Michael Collins
Biden to plug job market as recession looms
President Joe Biden is expected to take credit for a booming job market and easing inflation when he speaks to the nation Tuesday night.
But he’ll likely leave out a litany of trouble spots, including a slumping housing market, a monthslong manufacturing downturn and elevated recession risk this year. Meanwhile, inflation is still high and economists pin at least some of the blame on Biden for showering Americans with cash in early 2021 while the economy was already healing.
– Paul Davidson
Biden to suggest ways to lower prices for families
A good chunk of Biden’s speech will be devoted to the economy.
Biden will argue that the state of the economy is strong and, as evidence, will point to the fact that inflation is slowing, gas prices are down, and wages are up. Even so, 41% of Americans in an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Monday said they have become worse off financially since Biden took office two years ago.
Biden will acknowledge there’s still work to be done and will outline specific ideas on how to keep lowering costs for things like prescription drugs, child care and caring for an elderly parent, said Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council.
– Michael Collins
Bono, Tyre Nichols’ family members among guests sitting with first lady Jill Biden Tuesday night
The lead singer for the rock group U2, Bono, and Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., Oksana Markarova, are among the White House guests attending President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday.
Guests are chosen to highlight themes of the president’s speech or because they represent his policy initiatives.
Bono is the cofounder of the ONE campaign to fight poverty and preventable diseases, and (RED), which fights HIV/AIDS in Africa. Other guests who will be sitting with first lady Jill Biden during the speech include:
The mother and stepfather of Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old Black man who died after being beaten by Memphis police officers.
Brandon Tsay, the man who disarmed the Monterey Park gunman who killed 11 people and injured 10 others during a Lunar New Year celebration.
A Texas woman who almost died because doctors were concerned that intervening when her pregnancy ran into difficulties would violate the state’s abortion ban.
One of the Massachusetts same-sex couples who sued the state for the right to marry in 2001.
– Maureen Groppe
A ‘Joe Biden’ State of the Union address
Biden and his aides have been drafting his speech for weeks. The prep work continued over the weekend, when Biden huddled with senior aides at Camp David, the presidential retreat just outside of Washington. The speech will be polished and tweaked right up until the last minute, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
The White House declined to provide any insight into the writing process, but Jean-Pierre noted that this is hardly Biden’s first big address.
“The president was a senator for 36 years, he was vice president for eight years, he has been president for two years,” she said. “He knows how the process works. He knows how important (the speech) is going to be. And when you hear the speech, it’s going to sound like a Joe Biden State of the Union speech.”
– Michael Collins
The State of the Union is Tuesday: Here's what you can expect from Joe Biden's speech
How do I watch the State of the Union?
The major TV networks and other news outlets, such as Fox News, MSNBC, CNN and PBS, are providing live coverage of the address, in addition to some online livestreams. The speech will be livestreamed by USA TODAY.
– Marina Pitofsky
What to know:How do I watch the State of the Union? Why is the annual speech important?
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Spy balloon flew over missile sites, Intelligence chair says: recap