WASHINGTON – President Biden is set to deliver his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday.
The speech will air, as usual, at 9 p.m. ET, followed by a Republican response by Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
But does this annual tradition of addressing the Congress still have the same impact it used to have?
This is the phrase that begins the night: “Mr. President, President of the United States of America.”
It is traditionally said by the Sergeant of Arms before the President walks into the House Chamber.
However, the annual, prime-time speech doesn’t actually have to happen.
While President George Washington personally gave one – and President John Adams as well – President Thomas Jefferson withheld it.
Jefferson believed that it sounded like the King of England speaking to Parliament. Presidents from 1801 to 1913 submitted written annual reports to Congress instead of fulfilling their constitutional obligations.
President Woodrow Wilson brought the practice back in 1913, and with the invention of radio and television the in-person tradition has taken place most years since then. When President Biden speaks on Tuesday, it will likely be his most-watched speech of the year.
Last year’s address, watched by more than 38 million people, is a chance for President Biden to highlight past achievements such as legislation to promote computer chips. It is also an opportunity to express optimism for the coming year.
President Biden is expected to echo that sentiment with the economy and with Ukraine’s fight against Russia. It is also an opportunity for the President to make bipartisan demands on Congress, and he is expected to do so when it comes to the issue of the debt ceiling.
The United States could default for the first time this summer if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling. The State of the Union is typically the only time each year that every Republican member of Congress and every Democratic member of Congress hear the President speak in the same room.
Sometimes it may take longer. President Bill Clinton had the longest term ever in 2000. Mr. Clinton spent 1 hour 28 minutes.
The shortest address in modern times was by President Richard Nixon in 1972. Mr. Nixon spoke for only 28 minutes.
Last year, President Biden’s speech was 1 hour 1 minute. However, there are critics who say that the speech is not as influential as it used to be. Viewership has declined in recent years compared to the 1990s, and policy proposals have also decreased.
According to data compiled by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, from 1965 to 2015, an average of only 39.4% of all policy proposals contained in the Address to the Union were approved by Congress in that same year.
This means that, statistically, most of the things that President Biden mentions and wants Congress will not actually accomplish this year. Not all important political figures will be in the chamber of the House on Tuesday night.
In most post-Cold War years, a member of the president’s cabinet has been designated the “designated survivor”.
They are kept in a secure location and away from the Capitol to ensure continuity of government in the event of mass casualties.