Biden to unveil new health care and tax relief plans in State of the Union address

Biden to unveil new health care and tax relief plans in State of the Union address

President Joe Biden will use his State of the Union address on Thursday to tout his administration’s progress in lowering prices for consumers and to push for Congress to expand efforts to lower health care costs and reform America’s tax code, according to administration officials familiar with his plans.

Mr Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress — his third since taking office in 2021 — comes as he gears up for a tough general election rematch against the man he defeated in 2020, former president Donald Trump, amid lagging poll numbers and questions over whether he, at age 81, is too old to serve.

At Wednesday’s daily White House press briefing, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Mr Biden would “lay out the historic achievements he has delivered on for the American people” when he speaks from the House of Representatives rostrum at 9pm eastern time (6pm Pacific, 2am UK time) on Thursday, to lay out “his vision for the future”.

“Looking at what President Biden faced when he came into office and where we are now, it is clear he's gotten more done in the first three years than most presidents have accomplished in two terms,” said Ms Jean-Pierre.

She also said Mr Biden would use the annual message to Congress to “talk about the success in implementing his agenda, from infrastructure, to chip,s to lowering drug prices and getting rid of junk fees”.

“He will talk about whose side he is on and his plan to improve the lives of all Americans. That includes lowering costs for Americans and giving people more breathing room, lowering health care premiums and taking on big pharma to lower the cost of prescription drugs, making the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share in taxes, saving our democracy and protecting our democratic institutions, protecting women's reproductive health in the face of relentless attacks from Republican elected officials, making progress on his unity agenda, and ending cancer as we know it, delivering on the sacred obligation to veterans, tackling the mental health crisis and beating the opioid and overdose pandemic,” she said, adding that Mr Biden would “ outline an agenda that is about continuing to build on the progress that we've made over the last three years”.

“The President has always been an optimistic person ... and even in the face of challenges that we have in front of us, he will share why he is hopeful about this country's future and why it is a mistake to bet against the American people,” she added.

Ms Jean-Pierre also said Mr Biden and his aides would be working on the text of the address “throughout the day” on Thursday and “fine-tuning” his remarks with the aid of senior staff.

He also spent last weekend preparing his speech at Camp David accompanied by a small group of top aides, including longtime chief speechwriter Vinay Reddy, senior aides Mike Donilon and Steve Richetti, and top communications adviser Anita Dunn.

It is also understood that Mr Biden and his staff were joined there by Jon Meacham, the ex-Newsweek editor turned historian who has regularly consulted with the president on major addresses dating back to his 2020 victory speech.

Mr Biden’s remarks are expected to lean heavily on the legislative record compiled during his first two years in office, when he worked with a Democratic-controlled House and an evenly divided Senate to enact several large pieces of spending legislation, including a massive bipartisan infrastructure package, a multi-trillion semiconductor manufacturing and industrial base spending bill known as the CHIPS Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act.

Neera Tanden, the head of the Domestic Policy Council, told reporters that Mr Biden would reiterate his belief that health care “is a right, not a privilege” and highlight his administration’s work to lower health care and drug costs when he speaks on Thursday.

“He came into office promising to strengthen Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, and over the last three years he has truly delivered,” she said.

The president’s domestic policy adviser described how Mr Biden would “lay out a story arc” with respect to health care in his remarks, invoking the “historic accomplishments that he’s delivered on for people” and painting a picture of his “vision for the future” for lowering prescription costs and increasing health care affordability.

She also called health care a “signature issue” for him and his administration and said he would call on Congress to build on his record by expanding on those “two key areas of success”.

According to a White House fact sheet, Mr Biden will ask for the legislative branch to make permanent the American Rescue Plan Act and Inflation Reduction Act provisions that increased the tax credits available to Americans who buy health insurance on Affordable Care Act marketplaces, and enact an expansion of “Medicaid-like coverage” to low income Americans in the 10 Republican-led states that have refused to expand Medicaid because of GOP opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

Ms Tanden also said Mr Biden will ask Congress to pass legislation expanding the number of drugs for which Medicare can negotiate prices with pharmaceutical manufacturers.

The negotiation authority, first authorised in the Inflation Reduction Act, only allows the Centre for Medicare and Medicaid Services to negotiate for a set number of medications.

She explained that these negotiations are currently ongoing for the first 10 drugs, leaving the administration “well on our way to lower health care costs for seniors and lowering healthcare costs for all Americans”.

“That care should not be limited to negotiating just 10 drugs a year or 20 drugs a year. That is why the President will propose that Medicare should be able to negotiate prices for at least 50 drugs per year ... that will not only save taxpayers billions of dollars ... it will save lives and give seniors critical breathing room that they need,” she said.

Ms Tanden added that Mr Biden would ask Congress to expand the current $2,000 per month cap on out-of-pocket spending for Medicare recipients to “every American”.

Another push for tax reform

The president is also expected to again ask Congress to enact some of the tax proposals he has been advocating since his 2020 campaign for the presidency, including increases in corporate taxes and crackdowns on tax avoidance by corporations that use overseas tax shelters to stash away profits.

In a briefing for reporters on Wednesday, National Economic Council director Lael Brainard said Mr Biden will use the State of the Union to “describe how far we've come since he took office three years ago and the work that lies ahead to build our economy from the middle out and the bottom up, not the top down”.

“You’ll hear President Biden talk about his efforts to lower costs and crackdown on junk fees. And he'll also talk about important new actions to lower housing costs for working families around the country,” she said.

“President will also lay out his vision to make our tax code fair and to lower the deficit by making big corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share ... so billionaires do not pay less than school teachers or firefighters and ... the wealthy cannot get away with cheating on their taxes,” she said.

Specifically, Ms Brainard said Mr Biden would propose to reverse the corporate tax cuts enacted during President Donald Trump’s time in office and raise the corporate minimum tax to 21 per cent.

“He's also calling for a new proposal that would deny corporate tax breaks for executive compensation above $1 million. And he is fighting to cut taxes for working families and the middle class by restoring his full Child Tax Credit. cut taxes for tens of millions of families,” she said, adding that “none” of Mr Biden’s proposals would increase taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 per year.