The White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, spoke to NBC News anchor Lester Holt to preview Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech tonight.
Holt asked Klain whether the White House is concerned that Vladimir Putin may attempt to draw attention away from Biden’s remarks by escalating his attacks on Ukraine.
“The concern is that six days ago, Vladimir Putin launched an unjustified, unprecedented assault on Ukraine. The concern is that he continues to target civilians in Ukraine. I care less about what hour of the day or night this happens, and more about the fact that what Vladimir Putin is doing in Ukraine is wrong,” Klain said.
Klain commended Biden and European leaders for assembling “this amazing coalition” to ensure that Russia suffers economic consequences for Putin’s invasion, and he noted that the Russian ruble has taken a severe tumble as a result of Western sanctions.
“So they are paying a price for what they’re doing, whatever hour the day and night they do it,” Klain said.
Tell us: how are rising US prices changing the way you shop, work and live?
Joe Biden is expected to outline his inflation policy in his speech tonight – and we want to hear from readers about how it has been impacting your life.
Price rises for food, electricity and shelter were the largest contributors to the increases. Food inflation is up 7% compared to last year; some items like beef have gone up as much as 16%.
Have you had to change what groceries you buy? Have you had to put off certain purchases or trips? Where are you seeing prices rise the most?
We’re interested in hearing from people living all over the US. And we are especially interested in how people are coping in areas where food prices have risen the most (San Diego, Hawaii, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, LA and Denver) – but anyone can take part.
Get in touch via the encrypted form in the story linked below. Thank you!
Several lawmakers test positive for Covid before State of the Union
Some members of Congress will be missing Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech tonight because they have tested positive for coronavirus.
Senator Alex Padilla, a Democrat of California, announced his positive test result this morning, saying he is “asymptomatic and grateful to be fully vaccinated and boosted”.
Four Democratic members of the House — Suzan DelBene of Washington state, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Pete Aguilar of California and Ted Deutch of Florida — have also tested positive and will miss Biden’s speech at the Capitol.
Biden’s State of the Union address comes as the number of US coronavirus cases is on the decline, after the country passed the peak of its Omicron surge.
The attending physician of the Capitol has said that masks will be optional for tonight’s event, in accordance with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That new CDC guidance says that most Americans live in counties where healthy people can stop wearing masks for the time being.
In his State of the Union speech tonight, Joe Biden will also outline his administration’s strategy for tackling rising prices, as US inflation hits a 40-year high.
“We have a choice. One way to fight inflation is to drive down wages and make Americans poorer. I have a better plan to fight inflation,” Biden will say in his speech, according to excerpts provided by the White House.
“Lower your costs, not your wages. Make more cars and semiconductors in America. More infrastructure and innovation in America. More goods moving faster and cheaper in America. More jobs where you can earn a good living in America. And, instead of relying on foreign supply chains – let’s make it in America.”
Biden will advertise his strategy as “building a better America,” telling the country, “My plan to fight inflation will lower your costs and lower the deficit.”
That last point may catch the attention of Joe Manchin, who has criticized Biden’s Build Back Better Act because of its potential impact on the federal deficit. The $1.75tn spending package has stalled in the Senate because of Manchin’s opposition.
‘Putin’s war was premeditated and unprovoked,’ Biden will say in State of the Union
Joe Biden will sharply condemn Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in his State of the Union speech tonight, according to excerpts provided by the White House.
“Putin’s war was premeditated and unprovoked. He rejected efforts at diplomacy. He thought the West and NATO wouldn’t respond. And, he thought he could divide us here at home,” Biden is expected to say.
“Putin was wrong. We were ready.”
The president will also outline the reasoning of the US and its allies for imposing severe sanctions on Russia and Putin personally, arguing such measures are necessary to deter future violence.
“Throughout our history we’ve learned this lesson – when dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos. They keep moving. And, the costs and threats to America and the world keep rising,” Biden will say.
“That’s why the NATO Alliance was created to secure peace and stability in Europe after World War 2. The United States is a member along with 29 other nations. …
“It matters. American diplomacy matters.”
Biden’s speech comes as Russian forces have escalated their rocket strikes on major Ukrainian cities, including the capital of Kyiv. At least five people were killed in Kyiv today after Russian missiles hit a TV tower.
Finalized between situation room meetings and calls with allies, Joe Biden will attempt to deliver an address that balances the Ukraine crisis with domestic challenges that polling shows are most important to American voters, such as the economy, inflation and a stalled domestic agenda.
The speech, and all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds it, arrives as Biden’s approval rating falls to new lows, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. Just 37% said they approved of the job he was doing, with a majority of independents rating him negatively.
Underscoring the headwinds facing Democrats ahead of the midterm elections, 50% of Americans said they wanted Republicans in charge of Congress. Just 40% preferred Democrats to remain in control.
In a preview of the speech, White House officials said Biden would tout his administration’s progress on the pandemic, the economic recovery and a pair of early legislative successes: a $1.9tn stimulus package and the bipartisan infrastructure law.
They said Biden would acknowledge the financial hardships facing many American families, while attempting to shift the narrative around the country’s economic trajectory from one of pessimism to progress.
Joe Biden will deliver his first State of the Union address on Tuesday before a bitterly divided Congress, seeking to inspire a pandemic-weary nation deeply unhappy with its leaders and government, while projecting strength to the world after Russia unleashed the largest land war in Europe since the second world war.
The prime-time address comes at a precarious moment for Biden and the world. Speaking in the House chamber, Biden will interrupt harrowing coverage of combat in a European capital, as evidence builds that Russian attacks are striking civilian areas and Russian president Vladimir Putin threatens nuclear war.
From his bunker in Kyiv, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, urged Biden to make the State of the Union speech a “useful” act for the besieged country. Ukraine has been urging the west to impose a “no-fly zone” over “significant parts” of the country, which Nato has refused for fear of being dragged into direct war with Russia.
Ukraine’s ambassador to the US, Oksana Markarova, will watch the speech as a guest of the First Lady, Jill Biden, sitting alongside her in her viewing box.
It is a starkly different backdrop than White House officials had anticipated when they began drafting the speech, which typically draws millions of viewers.
“There’s no question that this speech is a little different than it would have been just a few months ago,” White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters on Monday.
Biden to deliver first State of the Union as multiple crises loom
Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.
Joe Biden will deliver his first State of the Union address tonight, as he faces crises on multiple fronts and tries to send a message of optimism about America’s future.
Biden’s speech comes as Russian forces continue to launch rocket strikes on major Ukrainian cities, endangering the lives of civilians. Earlier today, a TV tower in Kyiv was hit by Russian missiles, killing at least five people.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is bracing for the potential impact that the Ukraine crisis could have on gas prices. The US and its allies announced today that the International Energy Agency will release 60 million barrels of crude oil from their strategic petroleum reserves to try to lower gas prices.
Americans were already complaining of rising prices, as US inflation hit a 40-year high in January, and now the White House has to worry about gas costs increasing even more.
Despite all of those concerns, Biden is expected to use his State of the Union address to express hope about the direction of the country and its economy.
“The American people will hear a lot about how he’s going to lower their costs, how he’s going to continue to build a strong economy over the long term,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said yesterday.
The State of the Union is scheduled to get underway at 9pm ET, so stay tuned.