On March 1st, President Biden delivered his annual State of the Union address. Biden understandably spent a significant portion of his speech addressing the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the response from the United States and our allies. He also spotlighted successes from the first year of his presidency, pointing to the American Rescue Plan and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (aka the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law). Looking ahead, President Biden set a tone of bipartisanship and unity, calling for action in areas where he sees opportunity for consensus.
The President specifically called for Congress to pass the “Bipartisan Innovation Act.” In doing so he gave a new name to a legislative package that has been slowly moving through Congress since last year. Most recently, the House passed a version called the America COMPETES Act. The legislation includes a reauthorization of the National Science Foundation and other science policy measures. Biden framed this as a tool to compete with China, emphasizing that “We used to invest 2 percent of our G.D.P. in research and development. We don’t now. China is.” He did not go into detail on scientific research funding, but touted provisions in the bill that would support American manufacturing, particularly in the technology sector.
On COVID-19 President Biden did not declare victory but talked of a new phase of pandemic response. He emphasized ongoing domestic and global vaccination efforts and announced new plans to make anti-viral treatments broadly available to Americans at no cost. He also pointed to new CDC guidance which suggests most Americans can now go without facemasks; a statement starkly underscored by the room full of American political leadership gathering mask-free for the first time in almost two years.
Biden closed his speech by offering a “Unity Agenda” of four major goals on which he sees a bipartisan path forward: ending the opioid epidemic; addressing the mental health crisis, supporting veterans; and ending cancer. He called to “Increase funding for prevention, treatment, harm reduction and recovery” to address addiction. On mental health, Biden focused on Children and school resources, and called for “full parity between physical and mental health care.” He then called on Congress to establish and fund his proposal for an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) with “a singular purpose — to drive breakthroughs in cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes and more.”