Dem 51
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GOP 49
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State of the Union Is Set

In the most recent Q&A, we answered a question about whether or not Kevin McCarthy would invite Joe Biden to deliver the State of the Union address this year. In theory, refusing to invite the President would be a good way to poke him in the eye. In our answer, we were very skeptical that McCarthy would try that, however, as it would look very petulant and would deny the Republicans certain opportunities to grandstand.

As it turns out, this matter was being worked out at the very time we were answering that question. McCarthy sent a letter of invitation on January 13 (see it here); Biden accepted 2 days later. So, Biden will head to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue on February 7.

We suspect that because Biden is dealing with the classified documents issue, and this is his first time addressing the nation since that news broke, many people will put one and one together and will expect him to address the matter. This seems very unlikely to us, however. First, the administration is playing things close to the vest right now, and it's unlikely anything will happen to change that in the next 3 weeks. Second, it's the State of the Union address, not the State of My Presidency address. A sidebar about the files would be awkward and probably inappropriate.

Of greater interest, at least to us, will be the plans that Biden lays out for the next year. He's a bipartisanship fetishist, of course. On the other hand, he's also quite politically savvy, and knows full well that the House Republican Conference is where bipartisanship goes to die. So, we shall see if his 2023 plans focus on domestic legislation (which would require the aforementioned partisanship) or instead on things like foreign affairs and appointing judges, which the House has little influence over.

The most interesting storyline, however, might well be the question of who delivers the Republican response. Quite often, the job is given to a rising star who might be the party's next presidential nominee. Think Bob Dole (1994 and 1996), Trent Lott (1998), Tim Kaine (2006), Bobby Jindal (2009; not technically a SOTU since it was Barack Obama's first year), Marco Rubio (2013), or Nikki Haley (2016). If that was the plan this year, then the obvious choice would appear to be Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). However, as we noted yesterday, the Governor is not beloved by his fellow Republicans, and so is not likely to have such a plum assignment bestowed upon him. Plus, he's a terrible speaker. Oh, and picking him would infuriate Donald Trump and trigger a mini-civil war in the GOP.

It's also possible that, as part of prostrating himself to become speaker, McCarthy has already bestowed the spot upon one of the nutters in his conference. The only small problem with that is that the decision is customarily made by both party leaders in Congress, and Mitch McConnell is not likely to be enthused about having a raving loon speak for the Republican Party. Normally, the leaders of the two chambers would figure it out, but these two don't get along all that well, and there are really no rules that govern the situation. The first SOTU responses, back in the 1960s, were given by one senator and one representative (specifically, Everett Dirksen and Gerald Ford). Maybe we'll see a return to that model this year.

Whatever happens, this SOTU figures to be a bit more interesting than usual. Which really translates to: "a bit more interesting than watching paint dry." (Z)

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