House Republican counter-messaging ahead of President Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday — his first to a divided government with the new House GOP majority — is out in full force.
It’s being fueled by debt limit demands, the Chinese balloon and investigations into Biden and his family revving up.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is tangoing with Biden on raising the debt ceiling, demanding spending cuts as a precondition, delivered an address on the debt ceiling on Tuesday evening.
That got McCarthy out ahead of the president, who is likely to talk about the catastrophic economic consequences if Congress does not raise the debt limit by early June.
“The greatest threat to our future is our national debt,” McCarthy said in the 10-minute address.
McCarthy and Biden had their first meeting on the debt limit last week. Biden has asked for a “clean” debt ceiling increase not attached to any other stipulations.
In his address, McCarthy argued that the debt limit has long been used to push for spending reforms, including by Biden when he was a senator during debt fights two decades ago.
“We are already changing the behavior of this government. The runaway spending in the last few years — It’s over,” McCarthy said. “Now we must return Washington to a basic truth: Debt matters. The debt limit is one of the most important opportunities Congress has to change course.”
Cooling inflation and unemployment dropping to its lowest level in 52 years could give Biden some reprieve from the kind of GOP jabs that dominated the response to his address last year.
But House Republicans are not letting up on economic issues, with the Ways and Means Committee holding a field hearing in Petersburg, W.Va., on problems in the economy. Chairman Jason Smith (R-Mo.) lamented “high energy bills, declining real wages, labor shortages, spikes in interest rates,” and other issues facing the Biden administration.
And a suspected Chinese spy balloon has given Republicans an opening to rail against Biden’s defense and foreign policy decision-making. The balloon floated across the continental U.S. before being shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday.
“Clearly, the president taking it down over the Atlantic is … sort of like tackling the quarterback after the game is over,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner (R-Ohio) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “The satellite had completed its mission. This should never have been allowed to enter the United States, and it never should’ve been allowed to complete its mission.”
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) called on Biden and Vice President Harris to resign over their handling of the balloon.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that Biden had authorized the military to take down the balloon last Wednesday, and officials waited to shoot it down over water so the debris would not harm any Americans.
Republicans had considered bringing up a resolution to condemn Biden being too slow to act on shooting down the balloon, Politico reported, with the potential for a resolution to hit the floor on the same day as the State of the Union address. As of Monday evening, no vote had been scheduled or resolution unveiled, though members confirmed a resolution was under discussion.
Investigations into the Biden administration and the president’s family will sandwich Biden’s address.
On Tuesday before the address, the committee will hold a hearing with Border Patrol agents, aiming to highlight the “crisis” on the border and the Biden administration’s policies.
Other GOP members sought to turn focus to the border this week as well, with Rep. John Joyce (R-Pa.) linking illegal migration to fentanyl overdoses.
“It’s time for President Biden to address this crisis that has killed thousands of men, women, and children across Pennsylvania and offer us a concrete solution to secure our border and put a stop to these needless American deaths,” Joyce said on the House floor on Monday in anticipation of Biden’s address.
After the address on Wednesday, the House Oversight and Accountability Committee will shift to focus on Twitter’s decision to censor a New York Post story about the contents of a hard drive belonging to Hunter Biden, the president’s son. The hearing is part of a probe into what House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) calls “influence peddling” by Biden’s family, questioning whether Biden knew about his family’s foreign business dealings.
“Americans deserve answers about this attack on the First Amendment and why Big Tech and the Swamp colluded to censor this information about the Biden family selling access for profit. Accountability is coming,” Comer said in a statement.
There will also be some floor messaging action by Republicans ahead of Biden’s address.
On Tuesday morning, the U.S. Constitution is scheduled to be read aloud on the House floor – fulfilling an election-season plan from McCarthy to read the country’s governing document on the floor, but coming later than the promised first day of the 118th Congress.