President Biden will reissue his call for Congress to get behind his “unity agenda” as he delivers his second State of the Union address Tuesday night, seeking to reassure voters that both sides can team up to get things done.
In a preview of Mr. Biden’s remarks, White House officials said the president will not reveal flashy policy proposals. Instead, they say, Mr. Biden‘s focus will be an easier sell to a divided Congress.
The unity agenda is a bundle of proposed actions with four prongs: beating the opioid epidemic, tackling mental health issues, supporting veterans and ending cancer.
“These are issues that affect all Americans in red states and blue states and one where the American people are counting on our elected officials, no matter their party, to come together and do big things,” White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield told reporters.
By emphasizing the unity agenda, Mr. Biden is shifting his sights after spending his first two years pushing leftist proposals such as his massive climate, tax and health law, bipartisan infrastructure law and COVID-19 stimulus package.
It’s also a political necessity as Mr. Biden faces a hostile, Republican-led House energized to undo his legislative wins and launching investigations ranging from the discovery of classified documents from his time as vice president to his family’s business dealings.
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White House officials acknowledged that some pillars of Mr. Biden’s agenda will require buy-in from Republican lawmakers.
“In all four pillars of the unity agenda, there are components of action that require Congress,” said Christen Linke Young, deputy assistant to the president for health and veterans affairs.
For example, Mr. Biden has asked Congress to increase funding for treating opioid addiction recovery as well as stricter laws targeting the financial activities of criminal organizations that manufacture and traffic illegal drugs in the U.S.
Those proposals really haven’t gained much steam, but the administration has taken a few steps toward addressing the nation’s opioid crisis. The Department of Health and Human Services awarded nearly $1.5 billion in grants to all U.S. states and territories to increase access to substance abuse treatment. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration approved several naloxone products in the past year to reduce overdose deaths.
Mr. Biden will announce that his administration will bolster efforts to stop fentanyl from crossing the southern border, stop packages from being shipped into the U.S. with fentanyl and make a diplomatic appeal to China and Mexico to reduce fentanyl manufacturing and distribution.
Rahul Gupta, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Mr. Biden has “very specific asks” of China that will “reduce, if not eliminate, the shipping of precursor drugs.”
SEE ALSO: McCarthy pledges no Pelosi-style ‘theatrics’ behind Biden’s back at State of the Union address
The president will also call on Congress to ban targeted online advertising for children to enact protection for their privacy, health and safety online. As part of Mr. Biden’s focus on mental health, he will also announce steps to increase the number of mental health professionals in schools.
The president will also urge Congress to reauthorize the National Cancer Act to update the nation’s cancer research and care systems. He will pledge to work with Congress to help fund cancer research through funds allocated by the 21st Century Cures Act, a 2016 law.
Mr. Biden will announce that the Department of Veterans Affairs will launch a $10 million program to reduce veteran suicides as well as increase training for mental health providers working with veterans. He will also discuss plans to triple the number of veterans who can access rental assistance programs.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at email@example.com.
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