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Biden's State of the Union will preach unity while pitching re-election

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will lay the groundwork for his 2024 re-election campaign Tuesday while urging unity with congressional Republicans in his first State of the Union Address since declaring the end of the coronavirus pandemic emergency.

With Republicans now in control of the House, Biden has little hope of advancing any major legislation.

But the president — who predicted during his campaign that Republicans would have an "epiphany" after former President Donald Trump left office — will tell Republicans in his first address to a joint meeting of the new Congress that the two parties can still find places to work together to get things done, White House officials said. 

Biden will highlight areas where cooperation may be possible, such as countering China — though many Republicans are unhappy with how he handled the Chinese spy balloon — and regulating powerful technology companies.

"The people sent us a clear message. Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict, gets us nowhere," Biden will say, according to excerpts released ahead of the speech. "And that’s always been my vision for the country: to restore the soul of the nation, to rebuild the backbone of America: the middle class, to unite the country. We’ve been sent here to finish the job."

He’ll also promote federal money that Washington is pumping into congressional districts across the country to support new infrastructure projects. He’ll call particular attention to how the major spending packages he signed into law, such as the Inflation Reduction Act, is helping communities in rural and economically struggling communities, arguing Democrats are the ones doing the most to help blue-collar workers. 

"Amid the economic upheaval of the past four decades too many people have been left behind or treated like they’re invisible. Maybe that’s you watching at home. You remember the jobs that went away," Biden will say, according to the excerpts. "Jobs are coming back, pride is coming back because of the choices we made in the last two years. This is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America and make a real difference in your lives."

While Biden aides said he will emphasize bipartisanship and public service, the State of the Union is likely to be one of his highest-profile addresses of the year and will be a key opportunity for him to speak directly to American voters before formally announcing his re-election campaign, which is expected to come this spring. 

Drawing on themes that helped Biden win the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and then the general election, the White House said the president will say that America is emerging stronger than ever from the twin crises that marked his inauguration two years ago — the pandemic and the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Biden will seek to remind Americans about the pains of the pandemic, which has faded from many minds. Americans ranked “dealing with the coronavirus” last out of more than 20 issues asked about in a recent Pew survey, which found that economic concerns were far more prevalent. 

"We are the only country that has emerged from every crisis stronger than when we entered it. That is what we are doing again," Biden will say, according to his prepared remarks. “Two years ago, COVID had shut down our businesses, closed our schools, and robbed us of so much. Today, COVID no longer controls our lives. And two years ago, our democracy faced its greatest threat since the Civil War. Today, though bruised, our democracy remains unbowed and unbroken."

The speech is likely to draw smaller audiences than Biden’s earlier addresses to Congress or those of his predecessors, but the president and his team have spent days preparing, including over the weekend at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.