Washington Update - March 4, 2024

Billy Moore    Dc2

House Speaker Mike Johnson deserves credit for working with Democrats to pass a bipartisan Continuing Resolution (CR) last week and avoiding a partial government shutdown. His leadership paves the way for Congress to pass 6 of the 12 annual appropriations bills this week. The remaining half-dozen spending measures, including the more controversial Defense and Homeland Security bills, are due by March 22.

President Joe Biden is likely to salute the Speaker’s bipartisanship in his State of the Union address Thursday night. The speech is an opportunity for the President to reset views about his leadership and the direction of the country, both of which are decidedly negative. A catalogue of accomplishments and proposals is probably inadequate to the task; the moment calls for a more visionary portrayal of the nation’s future domestically and abroad, perhaps making the case for economic and domestic security while leading the free world against autocracy and terrorism.

With polls showing former President Donald Trump leading President Biden in swing states, the speech represents one of the President’s few remaining opportunities to capture the attention of the electorate and change the trajectory of his reelection campaign. 

Voters view President Biden’s record on inflation and immigration negatively. Recent improvements in consumer confidence and the bipartisan border security bill give Biden limited hope for changing the equation. Making the case for why Americans should value our role in the world could improve how a deeply divided electorate views the wars in Israel and Ukraine.

The former president’s criminal trials may be influential, too. The New York trial involving falsifying business records for hush money payments is scheduled to begin later this month. Trump’s legal team has achieved delays in the other three trials, possibly putting him in court in the months before Election Day - a development with unpredictable election consequences.