WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday invited President Biden to deliver his State of the Union address to Congress on March 1 as the White House grapples with an evolving pandemic and looks for ways to regain momentum for a legislative agenda that stuck in Congressional lockdown.
Mr. Biden accepted Ms. Pelosi’s invitation, the White House said.
The date is later than usual — the address will be delivered first in March — but it gives Mr Biden more time to try and advance his domestic policy package, which has been hung in the Senate over the objections of a single Democrat, Senator. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. The president is also struggling to pass federal voting rights legislation that would counter restrictions put in place by Republicans in some states.
Biden is likely to use the address to promote his administration’s benefits, including the approval of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package and the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package last year.
It’s unclear how the rising Omicron variant could affect this year’s State of the Union address. Biden’s first speech to Congress last year, which was not technically a State of the Union address, was delivered under the cloud of the pandemic.
The president spoke to a socially distancing audience of fewer than 200 officials, a small fraction of the massive mob of lawmakers who usually attend the speech. Those allowed to attend were instructed to wear masks and they were seated with several empty seats separating them from other spectators.
Mr Biden has suffered from low approval ratings due to rising inflation and an ongoing pandemic, and he needs legislative wins. Economists are bracing for the current wave of virus cases to further disrupt job growth after the Labor Department reported Friday that the United States added just 199,000 jobs in December, its smallest monthly gain of 2021.
But the president has failed to get the lone Democratic party, Mr. Manchin, to vote for his $1.7 trillion social safety net, climate and tax package.
Mr. Manchin and another centrist Democrat, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have also resisted intensified pressure from fellow Democrats to change Senate filibuster rules so the party can break stalled voting rights measures over the Republican opposition.