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Washington Wednesday: The State of the Union and what comes next


WORLD Radio - Washington Wednesday: The State of the Union and what comes next

Plus: congressional committee assignments

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington. Associated Press Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is the 8th of February, 2023. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s time for Washington Wednesday. And we want to talk about two things generating a lot of buzz right now in Washington:

The ouster of several Democrats from top committees in the House and, of course, the president’s State of the Union address last night.

Joining us now to talk about it is Matt Klink. He is a political strategist and president of Klink Campaigns.

REICHARD: Matt, good morning!

MATT KLINK, GUEST: Hi. Good morning.

REICHARD: Well, let’s start with the president’s speech. The president last night made his case for reelection, though he has not officially announced yet whether he’ll run again. But a recent Associated Press / N-O-R-C poll shows that the vast majority of Americans, including most Democrats do not want him to run again.

Did the president tip his hand last night? And do you think he’s receiving any inside pressure not to run again?

KLINK: What we heard in the State of the Union address was the case that Joe Biden will likely be making to the American public as the reason for his reelection. He is, as the Democratic National Committee meeting earlier last week, he's immensely popular with the party activists. If you have that office, you don't want to voluntarily give it up. And I think that he believes that his pathway is the right choice for America, in spite of the fact that there are some storm clouds on the horizon that he need be wary about.

REICHARD: The president spoke about the need to continue helping Ukraine to defeat Russian invaders. With Republicans now in control of the House, do you think we’ll see continued consensus on that?

KLINK: I think that there will still be consensus on the need to help Ukraine, primarily because they're battling Russia, and we still see Russia as a main enemy of ours. But look, we've spent $30 billion on Ukraine. That's a lot of money. And I think that what the Republicans will hopefully do is they will make sure that Ukraine is held to account, that the money is being spent where it's supposed to be spent. Ukraine has quite a quite a long history of, let's just say, the money not winding up where it is supposed to wind up. So if we're giving them money, and arms and weapons, they need to be used in the fight against the Russians and not being sold somewhere else. So I think with proper assurances, the Republicans will ultimately continue to fund that.

REICHARD: He also talked about what he has termed our “competition” with China—in light of recent events with the violation of U.S. air space. Is he saying the things he needs to say, at least publicly, to project firmness without ratcheting up tensions anymore than necessary?

KLINK: I think that Joe Biden is trying to square the circle here, which is really impossible. Look, it's very clear that China does not take Joe Biden seriously. They don't perceive America to be a threat. And, frankly, our measures have been weak. The balloon just being the latest example. The theft of intellectual property, the aggressiveness in the Indo-Pacific region around Taiwan. Look, all of these things. China just doesn't perceive us as a serious threat. They think that we'll always take a measured diplomatic response. And I think that what they do respect, though, is commitment and determination, and, frankly, a willingness to draw a line in the sand—metaphorically not physically. And Joe Biden has just failed on that test right now.

REICHARD: Biden also touted his handling of the economy. Do you think he changed any minds last night—or can change the minds of Americans who, according to the polls, are not enthusiastic about his economic policies?

KLINK: Joe Biden has a right to talk about some significant economic gains. I mean, the 517,000 jobs created in January, record unemployment. But what he overlooks is the fact that interest rates are skyrocketing, that inflation continues to be a problem, and that wage gains, while they have been made, they're not keeping pace with inflation. So paychecks are going less far than they would. Needless to say, too, there is shortages of eggs, and we have shortages of baby formula and gas is now going up again. So I mean, look, I think that where you sit is where you stand on the economy. Joe Biden will talk about positives that he can talk about, but there are some underlying currents. We could still sink into a recession. The Fed just raise interest rates by a quarter. But the strong jobs report probably means that they're going to raise rates by more than a quarter of a point the next time that they meet.

REICHARD: If you were advising President Biden on how to get his poll numbers up ahead of a reelection campaign, what would you tell him?

KLINK: The most valuable thing that Joe Biden can do, actually, would be to get things done in Congress, to prove that he is what he campaigned to be: a moderate who can work across the aisle with Republicans that are willing to work on middle of the road solutions. Unfortunately, the Republican caucus, it will be very, very difficult to do that in the House. And Joe Biden has proven that he has zero interest in doing that. He has catered by and large to the party. He's left progressive wing, and has no reason to move back to the center. He actually believes that, in spite of the fact that the Democrats lost the House in November, he perceives that he won because they picked up a seat in the Senate, and they have a one seat majority or a two seat now majority in the Senate. So I don't think the Joe Biden is capable of moving back to the middle. He believes he will be a consequential president by running to the left.

REICHARD: Well, let’s shift now to Capitol Hill. Republicans, of course, have ousted Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee over previous remarks she made that were widely seen as antisemitic. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell are also barred from the Intelligence Committee for different reasons.

How do committee assignments work? Can the majority party make these decisions about any committee or just the Foreign Affairs and Intel committees?

KLINK: No, you can make them for any committee. The Intel Committee, the speaker can just do on his own. He doesn't need the approval of the House. That's why Congressman Schiff and Swalwell were able to be removed so quickly without a public vote in the House of Representatives. Ilhan Omar, though, on the Foreign Affairs Committee, that did require a vote in the House. And I think that it's significant because it showed that Kevin McCarthy can keep his majority together. There were some Republicans that were making waves that they didn't want. Representative Omar kicked off the committee, not because they supported her just because of the precedent that it set. And Kevin McCarthy was able to pull 218 votes to get her removed. Really, the Democrats started this when they removed Republicans from committees, and they failed to allow minority leader, at the time, McCarthy to make appointments to the January 6th Committee. So I mean, the precedent was set. And I know that the Republicans didn't talk about revenge, but part of it in the background is you reap what you sow. And because they removed Republicans from committees, this is a bittersweet pill for them. For them being the Democrats.

REICHARD: Matt Klink with Klink Campaigns has been our guest. Matt, thanks so much!

KLINK: Thank you.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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