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What to Look for in Biden’s State of the Union

Four executive and legislative actions President Biden should address in his speech to Congress

President Biden will deliver his first State of the Union address to Congress this evening.  

At this moment of democracy in crisis at home and abroad, we know there are a host of consequential policy decisions to be made. In Europe, the world is watching as Russia invades Ukraine—putting so many lives and global stability at risk. In the U.S., our deep economic and political strain has been met with Republican filibustering and stalemate.  

We should not only address [our policy] challenges—we should go further, building power for Black and brown communities.

Domestically, this is a time for the president to call for meaningful, immediate action. From voter suppression to disproportionately high unemployment rates and so much in between, people of color in this country are facing dire challenges.  

We should not only address those challenges—we should go further, building power for Black and brown communities. Here are four policy areas and actions we’ll be listening for in President Biden’s State of the Union address—and our work showing why they are so needed: 

  1. Biden must make clear how he plans to protect the right to vote and our democracy, including not giving up on crucial federal legislation. Biden must also talk about what federal agencies are doing to expand opportunities to register to vote and how he will use his forthcoming budget to resource federal agencies to do so.  
    Last year, President Biden announced his Executive Order on Promoting Access to Voting, which requires federal agencies to consider what they can do to advance voter registration and voting access for eligible people they serve—an action with the potential to enable millions more eligible Americans to participate in elections. While this executive action was always important, its effective implementation is even more urgent now, in the face of unprecedented attacks on voting rights and obstruction of bills like the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.  

    Biden’s Executive Order Promoting Voter Registration Through Federal Agencies Could Help Millions of Potential Voters

    How and Why the Federal Agencies Can Register Voters

  2. Congress must pass the Build Back Better Act, and the Biden administration should ensure that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is implemented in a way that builds power and democratic control for Black and brown communities.  
    The infrastructure plan and Build Back Better represent two sides of the same coin when it comes to important reinvestments in our public infrastructure. Even more investment is needed, but they are a legislative acknowledgment that our nation’s experimentation with privatization of everything from our water systems to our K-12 education has been at the expense of our people and communities. 

    Behind the Curtain: The Corporate Plot to Upend Democracy
    People’s Action and Demos teamed up to reveal the corporate power grab behind the campaign against Build Back Better.  

    Water as a Public Good: Pittsburgh's Our Water Campaign
    This case study examines an important model for how the infrastructure plan could be leveraged to support community needs. 

  3. Biden made history by nominating Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court—the first Black woman to be nominated. Next, he should call for an expansion of the court. 
    Judge Jackson’s nomination is crucial, and we are looking forward to swift confirmation by the Senate. At the same time, we recognize she alone won’t be able to change the trajectory of today’s hyper-conservative packed Court in its systematic undoing of hard-won advancements in voter protections, racial justice, and rights for working people. As we celebrate this historic event, we also must continue the push toward an expanded Court that looks and thinks more like the people of this country. 

    How the Stolen Supreme Court is Defeating Democracy and Why Expanding the Court Can Save it

    Myth Busters: The Facts About Supreme Court Expansion

  4. And to make all this possible: it is (still) time to abolish the filibuster. 

    In the last year, we’ve seen time and again how some have chosen Senate rules over policy that would drastically improve our lives. Enough is enough. To make progress on all the issues we care about—from protecting the fundamental right to vote and workers’ right to organize, to shoring up the constitutional right to abortion—we must abolish the filibuster.  

    End the Filibuster: How a Relic of Jim Crow Could Block Our Progressive Agenda

    Dead Racists, the Filibuster, and the Debt Ceiling
    A conversation about what’s standing in the way of progress toward an inclusive democracy and a just economy. 

Tonight’s State of the Union is a moment to galvanize the country and remind us all that a just, inclusive, multi-racial democracy and economy is not only possible but critical to America’s long-term vitality. Even without a fully functioning Senate and pro-democracy Supreme Court, President Biden can empower Black and brown communities through administrative action and an unrelenting resolve to fight for legislative solutions to the crises in our democracy and economy. 

Indeed, the state of our union is fragile. We anxiously await an inspiring speech, but more importantly, we long for actions that bring about real change for real people.