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Sources: Biden To Lay Out Plan To Finish The Job On Economy; Interview With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY); Standing By For Biden's Speech To Congress. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 07, 2023 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: CNN has reached out to the firm for comment, we have as of yet gotten no response.

Well, thanks so much for joining us. Our special coverage of the State of the Union begins right now.



In the White House, President Biden getting ready to face a newly divided Congress and the American people at a pivotal moment in his presidency. He will soon leave for the US Capitol to report on the state of the union and to make an opening argument for his expected run for a second term.

I'm Anderson Cooper. This is a special edition of AC: 360.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And I'm Jake Tapper. We are counting down to President Biden's Big Speech, about an hour from now and his entrance into the House chamber where Republicans are now in charge for the first time since Biden took office.

New House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will be seated behind the President, a visible reminder of the political pressures on President Biden as the GOP-led House challenges his agenda and launches a slew of investigations. President Biden is expected to try to use his biggest national TV audience of the year to test the waters for his 2024 campaign message.

New excerpts of the speech reveal that he will make a direct appeal to Americans on economic pain as he tries to make the case that the United States is better off under his watch.

Among the most anticipated moments tonight, we're told that the President is planning to address his order to shoot down that Chinese spy balloon after it surveilled the US for days. We'll see how far he goes in discussing what actually happened as well as the increasingly tense US relationship with China.

And emotions may run high when President Biden makes an urgent new push for policing reform. The parents of Tyre Nichols, the young man who was fatally beaten by officers in Memphis will be in the room as guests of the First Lady. Our correspondents are standing by at the Capitol, at the White House,

and in a key battleground state. Let's start with CNN's chief White House correspondent, Phil Mattingly at the White House.

And Phil, what more are you learning about the big themes in the President's speech?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jake, in a speech that runs more than an hour long, at least in the rehearsals here at the White House, three words will be what the President comes back to, over and over again. Those three words "finish the job."

When White House officials look out into what the President will attempt to accomplish tonight, they made clear this is a literal primetime opportunity for him to run through a laundry list of accomplishments they believe had transformed the US economy.

But they are also keenly aware that many of those accomplishments either haven't been felt by the American public or are still in the process of being implemented. That is where those three words will be critical.

The President wanting to lay out why he believes the State of the Union in this moment is very strong, but the State of the Union in the years ahead will be even stronger based on what he has laid into place over the course of those first two years.

When you talk to White House officials, they underscore the importance of this moment, both in telling the American public what the President has done, but also laying out that groundwork keenly aware that this isn't just about tonight or the year ahead, there is certainly a reelection campaign that seems to be looming in just a matter of a couple of weeks -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Phil, thanks so much.

Let's go to Manu Raju on Capitol Hill right now. And Manu, what should we expect from House Republicans this evening?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Speaker McCarthy knows how significant it is. This is a moment for them as well. In fact, he has told Republican members that there will be millions of people watching and to not have any sort of distracting gaffe that could undermine their party's image at this critical moment.

He recognizes full well, the last time so many Americans tuned into what was happening on the House floor. That was early on in January, when after 15 ballots he was elected Speaker, instead, he wants to project a middle of the road image for his party.

In fact, McCarthy over the last several election cycles has tried to recruit candidates for moments like this, candidates who are more ethnically diverse, to try to show Republicans will reflect more of what the American public looks like as well. Now, McCarthy too, has tried to convey to his members that he will act

politely to the president. He won't do what Nancy Pelosi did back in in 2020, when she tore up President Trump's speech after the State of the Union address, says he will not do that here, but he does not want to see any of his members have any sort of outbursts like we saw in 2009 when Congressman Joe Wilson yelled out, "you lie" against Barack Obama, when Obama delivered -- addressed about healthcare to a joint session of Congress here, Jake.

So McCarthy, too, recognizing there is a lot on the line with Republicans and that Americans are watching their actions closely as well.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. Thanks so much.

And I'm joined by my august panel right now.

Abby Phillip, let me start with you. What do you think the overall goal is for President Biden for tonight's speech?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR OF "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY": Well, look, every President has a captive audience during the State of the Union address, but this is coming at the halfway point of his presidency and he is going to basically be asking the American people to trust him.

And the way that White House officials have put it to me is that this is about saying we are not done yet and they're not going to shy away in this moment because the question has been, are they going to be giving a rah-rah speech about where the economy is or about how much they've done and how much they've accomplished, this laundry list of items.


They are not going to shy away from that, but the idea that they want to convey is that they need more time to finish the job, as Phil was saying, and also that he is not giving up on this Congress, even a Republican-led House, that they still want to work with Republicans, that he still has items to check off on his to-do list, executive actions, but also, the implementation bit of this, I think, is going to be really key. They still want to show that they can govern, which is actually a key contrast point that they want to make with Republicans.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Can I just translate that? This is the launch of campaign 2024.

PHILLIP: Yes, and that too.

GANGEL: That's where we are. We're going to hear about unity. We're going to hear about the soul of America, we're going to hear the President try to say the economy has been better on his watch.

I'm told by someone familiar with writing this speech that do not expect red meat attacks on MAGA or MAGA Republicans, but at the end of the day, this is about Joe Biden launching his next campaign.

CHRIS WALLACE, CNN HOST, "WHO'S TALKING TO CHRIS WALLACE": They may not have read me, Jamie, but there is a lot of talk about contrast, which is a nice way of saying that they will point out that some Republicans want to cut Social Security, some Republicans want to cut Medicare, Republicans are talking about not raising the debt limit unless...

Thirty-eight million people watched the President's speech last year. If they get anything close to that, it will be probably the biggest live audience, the President gets this whole year. So this is clearly, even though they say it isn't, a campaign speech.

Two points they want to make. There was a poll that came out today in "The Washington Post," fascinating. Sixty two percent of Americans don't think the President has accomplished very much or maybe nothing at all. They need to say these two years, he improved your life.

The other poll, basically a third of Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents talk about only they want the President to run for office more -- almost two-thirds don't want him to run for office. How he says what he says tonight is as important as what he says.

He needs to come off as vigorous and ready for six more years in the job.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I agree completely, because "finish the job," as Phil says, we're going to hear several times, they might as well be four more years or six more years. That's the translation.

And how does he address the doubts out in the country? That he is physically up to the job, I think that's a huge challenge.

And when he says finish the job, the President wants to do things on the economy, like the Child Tax Credit, like raising taxes on the wealthy. He wants to do things on policing. He wants to do things -- more things on guns, he wants to do things on immigration, none of that is going to happen in the next two years with a Republican House, it's just not going to happen.

So when he says finish the job, he means, let's get through the next election, reelect me, and flip the House back to the Democrats. That's the translation for what he is saying.

There is not going to be a lot of bipartisanship, but I think one big question, how does the President talk about China? The American people are way ahead of this town.

The American people for years have been aware of the China challenge. The balloon over the skies last week give the President an opportunity to talk about his leadership. He has to sell them on Russia and Ukraine, but now, he has to sell them on his policy toward China, and that is an area where many Republicans are ready to work with him, if he sounds tough, and if he brings them to the table. PHILLIP: And what I've heard is that they're not -- they haven't

revamped the speech around this balloon incident. I mean, there's a little exasperation in the White House about how this has all played out, but they think that this is proof of their sort of toughness on China in identifying the balloon when the previous administration didn't.

So I think that this will -- look, to be fair, Biden has been talking about China. He has been from the very beginning talking about China as a competitor of the United States, and also talking about the need to strengthen the country domestically in order to compete with China. So I think that will be the theme.

But, you know, I was told -- I was asking, you know, are you guys going to tout you shot down a balloon? I'm told, look, they didn't go back and say, oh, we've got to rethink this whole China section, because I think they believe that Biden has been consistent from the beginning.

GANGEL: Can we just talk about the other side for a minute, and that is the Republican protection. As you said at the start, Kevin McCarthy has told his conference to behave. Let's see for how long they behave, because as we saw not too long ago --

KING: He'll take two hours tonight.

GANGEL: In 15 ballots, he has a core group that does not behave, and I'm told that there will be a lot of pushback at the end of his speech.

TAPPER: All right, we shall see.

Straight ahead, we are going to talk live with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, about her expectations this evening.

Right now, President Biden is getting ready to leave the White House and take the short drive to Capitol Hill.

Our State of the Union coverage is just getting started. Stay with us. We'll be right back.



COOPER: We are standing by for President Biden's departure from the White House as he prepares to speak to the nation and set the stage for his reelection announcement.

When he arrives at the Capitol, he will face an arguably more hostile crowd than the last time he addressed Congress with the Republicans now in the majority in the House.

I want to go to Dana Bash at the Capitol with a special guest, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez -- Dana.


And, Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining me. First, what do you expect to hear and what do you hope to hear from the President tonight?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Yes, you know, I hope to hear a really strong vision from the President about not just what we've done so far, but also our plans on executing on the enormous goals and successes that we've had in the last one to two years between the Inflation Reduction Act, even the American Rescue Plan, there still is implementation and execution on these plans, to address our priorities around climate, taxing the rich and so much more.

And so I'm really looking forward to hearing a lot of specificity around how we plan to implement legislation that we in Congress were successfully able to pass.

BASH: So there is implementation of what was passed before when you were in the majority. Now you're in the minority, but do you still have an expectation that he is going to talk about some of the progressive ideas and policies that you've been pushing that even though you couldn't get a lot of it done when the Democrats were the majority.


OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes, no, I think so. I think it is important for the President to lay down a very strong plan and a strong vision, and I think there are some encouraging aspects, I think we may be hearing a little bit.

There has been some early data that we may be hearing a little bit about audacious plans on taxing the rich, stock buybacks, and I think that these are really strong markers that are important for us to put down because they are, even though they are progressive, they're also overwhelmingly popular among independents, Democrats, and even some Republicans as well.

BASH: So on that note, I mean, you -- this is the first time you're going to be in that chamber or that you're here as a member of the minority.


BASH: Not the majority. What are your expectations, your real expectations about working with Republicans on maybe not some of those tax issues, because I don't think a lot of them will, but other issues?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, so I sit on the Oversight Committee and every once in a while, there are very odd alignments in some things that we find in common, sometimes going after Defense contractors that are defrauding the government, even at the end of last term, we had a hearing on bipartisan approaches to cannabis decriminalization, legalization, or just general laws around that as well. So, you know, I think it's going to depend. This margin is very slim,

though, and that plays into the advantage for Democrats, because if we can just pick up two, three, four Republicans out of several hundred of them, then we might be able to have some openings where we can pass legislation that positively really impacts people's lives.

BASH: I want to read you a line from the President's speech tonight, part of the excerpts that they released: "To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can't work together in the new Congress."

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I mean, I think that there may be some Republicans that are willing to work with the administration. I do believe that Kevin McCarthy has already demonstrated a struggle in keeping his caucus together, which again, all of that plays into potential openings in the next one to two years for Democrats to exploit.

I introduced an amendment to a Republican bill recently around oil drilling, and some of those amendments were around banning stock buybacks of oil companies that have been profiteering over the last year. But also other things around meeting net emissions, and I was shocked that it picked up a Republican vote, but you only need three more beyond that in order to pick up, you know, a governing majority.

BASH: You talked about Speaker McCarthy. He is obviously going to be sitting behind the President tonight. There are now a majority of Republicans in the chamber where you'll be sitting. What is your expectation, just of the feeling in that room?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: You know, I think we'll see. Speaker McCarthy, I think has some trouble corralling his own caucus and so while he may have had some guidance around being disciplined and being respectful, we'll see if his caucus really follows suit.

You know, I think that he's also been struggling with this narrative around Republicans possibly attempting to cut Social Security and Medicare. And well, on one hand, he is saying that's not going to happen; on the other, the math simply does not work for their proposals unless they do, do that.

And so, I'm interested in seeing what his response is going to be to some of that.

BASH: The President is going to be effectively making his case for a second term tonight, is that something you're going to be wholeheartedly listening for and eagerly listening for?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think that all leadership, again, is about that strong, ambitious vision. And if that is a subtext of tonight, I think one of the things that we're going to have to hear is a commitment to really big, bold animating ideas, whether it is around climate, whether it is around racial justice, whether it is around abortion rights.

I think we are going to have to hear a very forceful, big, animating, exciting vision, if that is one of the -- you know, one of the subtexts.

BASH: So that's what you want to hear in order for him to get your support in 2024?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think the American people need -- for any potential candidate -- and again, this is an official, you know, speech that he is delivering as President of the United States. But, you know, I do think that in any candidacy, we need to see what the plan is for our future.

BASH: And you're not ready to say you support him.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I got here through a primary process and I have a deep respect for that. I never try to jump ahead of it, but I would enthusiastically support him if he were the Democratic nominee.

BASH: Okay, Congresswoman, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Of course. Thank you. Absolutely. Thank you.

BASH: Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Dana, thanks so much. We expect the President to leave the White House any moment with his speech and any last minute revisions in hand, the President will make his big entrance after the top of the hour.

You'll see it all here live on CNN. Stay with us.



COOPER: President Biden is about to exit the White House and head to the US Capitol to deliver his State of the Union address in the face of a newly empowered House. Republicans are on their own turf.

Right now, Members of Congress are gathering at the Capitol for the President's speech. It's taking on even more political significance this year, obviously with the President preparing to launch his bid for a second term.

We're going to get more on what the President needs to accomplish tonight, especially in key presidential battleground states.

Jeff Zeleny is in one of those States right now in Madison, Wisconsin. You've been talking to voters there. What are you hearing?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, President Biden is going to be flying here tomorrow, of course, the first stop to sell the State of the Union address and talking to voters here.

These are his supporters, people who want him to do well. There is a sense of trepidation among them, just about his vigor. Can he continue in this role? I talked to one woman today she said, wouldn't it be lovely if we could have someone running for President who was not in their 70s or 80s, and again this is someone who is a fan of Joe Biden.


So that is one of his challenges here tonight, to make the case that yes, he has the agenda. But more than that, he has the fire to still do the job. So that's why he is coming here to Wisconsin tomorrow, to Florida on Thursday, on and on, to make the case to voters that he is still up for the task.

Of course, he would be the oldest President. He already is the oldest President, of course, to serve, but should he serve the duration of his term, he would be 86 years old. So talking to Biden supporters here in Wisconsin, that was the thing that came up again and again: Can he do this job a second time -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jeff Zeleny in Madison, Wisconsin. Jeff, thanks very much.

Back here now with the panel, David Axelrod. If you were advising the President, what is -- I mean, there have been some excerpts, he talks about, you know, essentially, I feel your pain, I get it, I get the pain that's out there. He's obviously going to talk about some of his accomplishments as well.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, well, he has to do that. But look, there is a compulsion on the part of every president, especially Presidents who don't feel they're getting enough credit to take advantage of this and give people a laundry list of the things they have done for them. That is a mistake. That is mistake.

You want to tell a story about the journey the country has been on, and we've been through an ordeal. You know, when he took office, we were in a terrible position and he has led us through that. And he has to talk about how the things he has done are meant to lay the groundwork for the future, and the future is very important. You heard Representative Ocasio-Cortez talk about this.

I think particularly when you're 80 years old and thinking of running for reelection, you need to paint a picture of a vision for the future and talk about the things you've done in service of that vision.

The other thing I would say, Anderson is, he will be facing this different audience with a Republican majority in the House. I saw the excerpts that he has released, I think he is right on target there. I think he needs to engage in some jiu-jitsu.

We know how rabid some of those folks are. We saw it on the floor just, you know, a few weeks ago when we were all sitting together during the speakership fight. I think that saying, hey, we can destroy each other, or we can try and work together and I know where the American people want us to be.

COOPER: Alyssa, some of the excerpts he is talking basically, essentially, America is back on the economy, on COVID, on democracy, but a lot of Americans don't feel it if you look at the polls.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, absolutely. There's an ABC-Washington Post poll that has four in 10 Americans feel they're less financially well off since Biden took office, like that's the reality. So to Axelrod's point, you don't want to go out there and just rattle off your legislative accomplishments and not talk about how people are feeling, that they're actually still feeling the pain of the financial situation.

He has also got a bit of a delicate dance he has to do. We just saw Representative Ocasio-Cortez, give a kind of tepid answer on whether she would support him. He has to keep the leftmost flank happy, but also appeal to Independents and moderate Republicans, which it looks like he's trying to do in some of these early excerpts.

But again, if he goes too far on policing reform, he's going to lose with those potential Independents, so it's a delicate dance and, you know, six in 10 Dem-aligned voters don't necessarily want him to run again.

COOPER: Yes, Van, I mean, Alyssa is talking about the AOC interview, Dana Bash asked her if she would support Biden in a reelection. She said she has deep respect for the primary.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that was not a happy moment for the Biden team. But I think tonight could be a happy moment for Joe Biden.

I get he can't get out here and act like everything is perfect, but it would be hard not to brag if I were Joe Biden. I think Democrats can be proud tonight. I think America is going to have some room for some hope.

Five hundred thousand jobs just last month, 12 million jobs in two years. It is more than any President has done in four, the biggest investment in climate ever in human history.

Gun reform, marriage equality, infrastructure reform -- the guy has done a bunch of good stuff. Now, I agree with you, you've got to brag on it the right way. You've got to humble brag, but I mean, can we be happy about something?

AXELROD: Well, much of what Alyssa said, I think that, you know, most people, like 16 percent think they're in better shape than they were two years ago. I think objectively, the economy is much better than it was two years ago. But people aren't feeling it.

JONES: I get it.

AXELROD: I mean, you have to hook up with people where they are.

JONES: I agree with you, but I just think that sometimes, can we take yes for an answer in terms of we did get stuff done. I think like I said, Democrats have some reason to be happy tonight, and I hope that Joe Biden is not afraid to point to the good stuff in the mirror.

AXELROD: I don't think you'd have to worry about that.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: CBS did a survey and asked Americans to describe the state of the union, the top three answers given -- declining, divided, weak. That's what he is facing tonight.

Now, the audience of this speech is important. The TV audience is likely to be mostly Biden approvers. So he's going to get probably a nice look at the polls after the speech, but that won't be indicative of where most Americans are.


COOPER: As we wait for the President to leave the White House, our State of the Union coverage continues in 30 seconds.


COOPER: OK, President Biden has just walked out. He's now in the limousine, The Beast, to take him to Capitol Hill with our countdown to President Biden's State of the Union address. As we watched the President leave, I want to go back to the White House and Phil Mattingly. Phil, what more are you hearing about the President's remarks tonight?

MATTINGLY: You know, the Anderson the President has been working on his speech throughout the day, rehearsals, working over, final edits. But I wanted to touch on something that Van was just talking about in terms of the ability to connect what have been kind of abstract, though very major legislative accomplishments to an actual constituency.

And one constituency, in particular, over the course of the last several weeks, sometimes in public, but more so in private, the President has started talking about the idea of limousine liberals, this idea of perhaps a constituency of the Democratic Party that maybe wants to do big things but doesn't necessarily remember some of the neighborhoods they came from in terms of how the President has described things, that is a critical component of this speech.

Blue collar workers trying to engage with what used to be a core constituency of the Democratic Party that has largely moved away from the party in recent years. In fact, in the President's speech itself, he will address this directly, saying, quote, too many people have been left behind or treated like they're invisible.

Maybe that's you watching at home. You remember the jobs that went away and you wonder where a path even exists anymore for you and your children to get ahead without moving away. I get it. And part of what the President will be doing in that section of the speech is trying to connect those legislative achievements, those new laws, and what they will do from an economic perspective to those individuals, those blue- collar workers, those union workers that the President believes are the people that he resonates with most, but perhaps have moved away from the party.

You talk about the tens of millions of people that when the President reaches the Capitol, he's going to be directing this speech to. That's who it's to. Not the 535 members of Congress or us in the media, it's those individuals, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. We just saw Vice President Harris walking in, members of the Senate, Mitch McConnell walking in.

Phil Mattingly, to that point, one of the other lines from the speech the President that's been released in advance is President saying this is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America and make a real difference in your lives. Stressing that blue collar in that sentence.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Look. That's President Biden, right? He's the guy from Scranton. This is Joe Biden. This is middle class Joe. It's to some degree become a caricature of who he was as a senator, vice president, and now president. But it is very much the persona that he maintains both publicly and privately and what his top advisers know resonates most with the American people.

And I think his effort tonight, and I think this gets to what Ax was kind of detailing about, not just laying out a laundry list of accomplishments, but trying to tell a story, knit together a narrative. These legislative accomplishments are not one offs. They are not singular accomplishments in a vacuum.

They actually knit together from an economic perspective in telling that story through the factory openings, through the manufacturing jobs, all together and connecting them to the blue-collar workers. That's the President's goal. That's what he will be trying to do tonight, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Phil Mattingly at the White House, thank you.

As we await President Biden's arrival at the Capitol, let's go back to Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Anderson, we're watching members walking into the House of Representatives. They're getting ready to listen to the President of the United States. This is truly a historic moment right now.

Dana Bash, you're there on the scene for us. Give us a sense of what you're seeing.

BASH: Well, I'm standing next to the procession of senators, as you can see coming in. We started by watching the President of the Senate, the Vice President Kamala Harris, walk in. And now we have senators here. There we go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two little states, Delaware and Vermont.

BASH: Delaware and Vermont. But they get representation just like every other senator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) and that's what he's doing.


BASH: So you can see the mood is a bit jovial as they are starting to go in. But it --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) here. That's a real senator. BASH: That's right. Senator Fetterman? Senator Fetterman, are you --

what do you think about your first State of the Union?

SEN. JOHN FETTERMAN (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Just looking forward to this.

BASH: Yes. So you see that we have members who have been here before and those who are just starting, and they're going to witness their first State of the Union, like now Senator John Fetterman of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

We're also going to wait for the diplomatic corps, and we also expect to see members of the Supreme Court, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, we're looking at the Vice President. She's now the President -- of course, the Vice President of the United States, is the President of the Senate. So we're going to see her walk up there, and I assume that she and Kevin McCarthy will be shaking hands as she gets up there.


There they are. He reaches out to the Vice President, and they will be seated right behind the President of the United.

You know, Kaitlan, this is really a very, very dramatic moment that we're watching right now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: It's also an incredibly different moment because of Speaker McCarthy that you're seeing there. You know, when President Biden enters the chamber in just a few moments, they're going to say, Mr. Speaker, not Madam Speaker, which is what you heard last year, given it was Speaker Pelosi standing over his left shoulder.

And so that really is going to be the biggest difference in this State of the Union address tonight, is the fact that he is dealing with a new Republican majority. And the White House has not, you know, shied away from that at all. We heard Phil talking about how they've crafted this speech.

They also expect President Biden, I'm told, to call for more bipartisan progress. Hopefully, if they can make it, we'll see if they can somewhere. But they also think he's going to draw a very distinct line between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to the economy, because that has shaped up to be one of the biggest differences between them.

You see several of the senators there walking in. Senator McConnell there. One striking contrast is Senator McConnell and President Biden have a very different relationship with the Speaker McCarthy.

BLITZER: Look who's there.

COLLINS: Of course, George Santos --

BLITZER: Kasie, take a look who's you see, George Santos right in the middle of the screen, the Republican Congressman from Long Island, who's obviously very, very, very controversial.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Controversial indeed. And, you know, this is one of the perks of the job that he was able to get elected to do. I'd be interested to know if he's going to be present for the next State of the Union, I guess we're going to find out here.

But, you know, Dana has the best seat in the House for a night like this, I have to say, where she, you know, gets to talk to people as they walk in onto the floor. And, you know, I've spent the last, you know, maybe half dozen plus State of the Unions actually in the chamber. And it is a rare moment.

It is a rare chance to get to watch Republicans, Democrats, people who don't often interact with each other, how they talk to each other in this kind of a setting. And I do think the atmosphere in the room is going to tell us a lot about both how the White House wants to present things, but also how Republicans are going to be willing to receive it.

I mean, it does seem like the message we're getting from the White House in terms of how they're going to frame the speech is to rise above, right, rise above the partisanship, rise above the squabbling that has defined Washington so aggressively, frankly, the last few years, and instead try and focus on things that can be accomplished.

You know, they will blame House Republicans largely, I would say if, in fact, they're not able to get anything done, which, I mean, Wolf, you've covered this town long enough to know divided government, it is always difficult to get things done. And I think the noise behind us also may indicate that the President and his motorcade maybe --

BLITZER: Once the motorcade arrives here, Kasie, it's going to be right behind us.

HUNT: Yes.

BLITZER: So we'll hear it. There's Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate.

COLLINS: Can I say one interesting thing. You see Senator Schumer there, and we saw Senator Tim Scott as well. Senator Schumer, I met with him earlier and some reporters -- there's Speaker -- former Speaker Pelosi there, of course, in a very different seat tonight than she was the last time in the State of the Union when it was delivered.

One thing, you know, Tyre Nichols' parents will be here. One big question coming out of this for a lot of these lawmakers will be --

BLITZER: Here comes the motorcade right behind us. Yes.

COLLINS: There is President Biden. You can see views.

HUNT: Everyone, our viewers can see it on the top right of the screen is the motorcade that's actually happening right behind us, pulling into the Capitol here to bring President Biden into this scene, where you can obviously see members of Congress. Will be seated, of course, by the time he gets into the chamber.

BLITZER: You know, the members of the House are there. The members of the Senate are there. And there you see the presidential limousine, The Beast, as it's called, arriving up here on Capitol Hill.

COLLINS: But one thing -- back to what we were talking about with police reform is, you know, you see all of these things that the President's talk about, what they've accomplished, what they want to accomplish in these speeches. You know, often also to go back and look at what actually came out of it, what were the tangible takeaways, police reform is going to be a big question.

And I saw Senator Schumer earlier today. He expressed some optimism, very cautious optimism about those talks happening with Senator Tim Scott, who you saw there, and Senator Cory Booker and some of the Republicans on Capitol Hill. We'll see what that looks like. I mean, of course, because of Speaker McCarthy, that really says it all. Could something like that even get through a Republican majority in the House?

BLITZER: We shall see. There's the Speaker and the Vice President. They're getting ready to listen to the President of the United States.

Jake, let me go back to you.

TAPPER: Thanks, Wolf. So we're just watching the House chamber, as are so many Americans. There, of course, is the new Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, with the Vice President, Kamala Harris.

Jamie, these speeches, these States of the Union addresses often are known for having an emotional moment. We remember it in PresidentTrump's first address to Congress, there was a -- the Gold Star wife of a fallen marine. Are you anticipating any this evening, especially with the family of Tyre Nichols in the audience.


GANGEL: No question about it. And just to go back, that's actually for those of us old enough to remember, a relatively recent thing to have guessed who served with Ronald Reagan when he had, I think, Lenny Scutnik, who had rescued someone from the plane crash out of the Potomac. There always, I think, emotional moments, whatever side of the political divide you're on.

I also think it's just fascinating to see who's talking to whom. There was a moment a little earlier where Mitt Romney was talking to George Santos. When we first came back, we saw Kamala Harris and Kevin McCarthy talking to each other, but for a while, they had not been talking to each other. So it's just sort of interesting to see the interplay on the floor in these moments before it begins.

TAPPER: Absolutely. Let's go to Manu Raju, who is in the House Chamber. Manu, tell us what you're saying.

RAJU: Yes, actually, a lot of buzz in this room, a lot of energy here. This is different than what we saw in some of the recent State of the Unions, particularly in the COVID era. A lot more damp mood in this room, but different here in part because so many members here are new to this chamber, so many freshmen, their first time experiencing an event like this.

A lot of new senators and House members all in the room. And you mentioned the very Congress -- controversial Congressman George Santos sitting along the aisle, has moved around a little bit, but he will be in a position potentially to shake Joe Biden's hand on his way in. And I've been observing to Kevin McCarthy and Kamala Harris, they have been having what appears to be a pretty warm conversation themselves and to not having a whole lot of interaction with each other over the years, despite being both from California.

But right now, Kamala Harris pointing over to the visitors' gallery as members are greeting each other. And right now, the mood very light in this room. But of course, that could certainly change depending on the kind of remarks that Joe Biden gives here just a matter of moment, Jake.

TAPPER: That's right. And we're watching individuals come in. John Fetterman, the brand new senator from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania there, he's the larger gentleman towards the back there. And right in front of him, of course, is Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri. Bernie Sanders wearing the mask, making his way down the aisle.

Abby, do you think that President Biden is going to have much to say about the downed Chinese spy balloon that has been so much a focus of the political world and the geopolitical world in the last week?

PHILLIP: I think it'll be interesting to see how specifically he addresses it. There's really no question China is going to be in this speech. China is going to be a huge part of his foreign policy picture that he's painting here.

But the question is, will he use the Chinese spy balloon to draw a contrast between what he did as president and the previous administration? Or will he acknowledge it and move on to the geopolitical issues that he's wanted to talk about?

WALLACE: Abby, I want to jump in and talk about a picture we just saw a moment ago of Kevin McCarthy with Vice President Harris. I think it's fair to say, I've been in this town a long time, I have never seen as much bad press as Kamala Harris has gotten in the last week. I mean, just savage stories in a number of newspapers, not only about the -- there's Bono.

TAPPER: There's Bono from U2.


WALLACE: I just finished his book called "Surrender", read it.

TAPPER: And the gentleman in the hat is Paul Pelosi, the husband of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was, of course, violently attacked.

WALLACE: In the scarf is the fellow who wrestled the automatic weapon away in Monterey Park from the man who shot and killed, what, 10 or 11 people.

PHILLIP: And, Jake, you were talking about emotional moments. I mean, we should just remember we are less than a week past Tyre Nichols's parents burying him.


PHILLIP: So this is a very -- an event that is in very close proximity to a really searing moment for them and also for the country. So I think that as emotional moments go, that will be a pretty significant one. And I will be curious to see how bipartisan the acknowledgment is for this family, given what they've been through, but given how partisan this talk about police reform has been.

WALLACE: If I can just finish the point I wanted to make about, Kamala Harris she's very important politically because there's been a lot of talk, as we've discussed earlier, about the fact that only three in 10 Democrats and Democratic leaning independents feels comfortable with Joe Biden running for president.

One of the problems the Democrats are going to face is that his vice president is even more unpopular than he is, has even lower standing in public opinion polls. And you can just see Republicans, as Biden gets closer to the nomination and we assume is going to keep Kamala Harris on the ticket, that Republicans will start making the argument.


You're talking about an 82-year-old man serving until he's 86. And if anything were to happen to him, God forbid, Kamala Harris becomes President Harris. That will be an issue for the Republicans in the upcoming election.

TAPPER: John King, Biden is going to call on House Republicans to work with him. We've seen as the camera has flashed onto the floor of the House, some House Republicans that can barely work with House Republicans, much less with a Democratic President.

KING: You were just looking there at George Santos, he's wearing a gold tie. He has the Speaker today confirming they're at least the early process of the House Ethics Committee investigation into him. You see Matt Gaetz and Chip Roy on the floor. There are some of the people who helped deny Kevin McCarthy the speakership for ballot after ballot after ballot after ballot. They have no interest.

TAPPER: Marjorie Taylor Greene.

KING: Marjorie Taylor Greene there. She has no interest in working with Joe Biden. She has very few big policy proposals. She herself has advanced. So that is a challenge for the President. Kevin McCarthy has an interest in at least making a good impression with the American people.

He said he had a good meeting with the President on the debt ceiling and he wants to show himself to be a responsible leader of the Republic. Just a big night for him. And the question is, can he keep his people together? Is it a respectful disagreements with the President?

They're going to disagree with the President. It happens all the time. Democrats do it for Republicans presidents. Republicans will do it for Democratic president. But do you just stay seated or you can grown a little bit or is it more of a circus atmosphere?

So it is a big test. Kevin McCarthy in the last week has essentially told his Republicans, let's get through this moment, let's show the American people we're serious. Can he keep them together tonight? So it's a giant -- the biggest challenge tonight is obviously on the President United States to speak to the American people.

But Kevin McCarthy has a challenge here in his introduction as speaker to the American people and as leader of what can be a cantankerous. And that's a polite word.

TAPPER: Yes. One of the first things he did, of course -- and we just saw a brief image of her on the floor of the House -- one of the first things Kevin McCarthy did as Speaker was to have a vote to kick Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Democrat of Minnesota, off the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Dana Bash, you were among a team of reporters that got to have a briefing, an off the record briefing with Speaker McCarthy earlier today. Any suggestion of what he told his caucus, how he told them to behave or how he might want to be able to work with President Biden or Senate Democrats in the future?

BASH: Well, the behavior he -- and our colleague Manu Raju has said that he has -- was very clear with his conference that he wants them to behave themselves. We'll see if that plays out. But the image that you're seeing right now on our screen, Jake, of -- that's Bono and Paul Pelosi, we should say. That's quite an image of Bono and Paul Pelosi speaking there.

But the image of Kevin McCarthy and the Vice President being jovial and being friendly, with very much on his mind.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: -- House to escort the President of the United States into the chamber. The gentleman from Louisiana, Mr. Scalise. The gentleman from --

BASH: And now you hear the Speaker for the first time doing the formalities of the State of the Union and doing it next to the Vice President of the United States. As I was saying before, Jake, he is very focused on trying to have people perceive him as respectful of the President of the presidency.

Doesn't mean he's going to standup and clap at everything. Definitely don't expect that to happen. But he is cognizant of the fact that he is going to be on camera and representing the Republican Party, that he wants to be seen in a different way than it has been over the past couple of years.

TAPPER: Right. Although, of course, we should point out that one of the reasons it hasn't looked the way he wants it apparently to look is because he has, himself, been engaging in election denialism and voting against electoral votes for President Biden. So it -- he may want his caucus, the House Republican Conference, to be seen and as respectful of the presidency, but he voted to deny electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania to President Biden himself.

And even though that may have been two years ago, we can't pretend that that is not history, including indeed, recent history. One other thing to think about when we listen to Vice President Harris and Kevin McCarthy, the Speaker of the House, is that these are two people who came up roughly at the same time in California politics.

McCarthy in the Fresno area, I believe, and Harris in the San Francisco area. There's the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, will be seeing all sorts of officials from across the administration, including from the U.S. Supreme Court.


TAPPER: Anderson?

HARRIS: The Senator from Montana, Mr. Daines.


COOPER: Jake, back with the team here in New York. Scott Jennings, I mean, for the President, this is really the first pitch for his reelection day.

JENNINGS: Yes, and he's in rough shape. I mean, his own party doesn't want him to run. The American people don't want him to run. There are serious reservations about reelecting a president who will be 86 years old at the end of the next term.

And, you know, I don't know where you go from here. He has -- he is going to talk about some things he's gotten done, but the American people don't believe it, they don't feel it. And you can feel in the country the market demand for a new generation of leadership.

I think that about Biden. I also think that about Trump. That would be the best possible thing he could do for this country, as one weird trick for having an 80 percent approval rating by tomorrow morning. Give a 10-minute speech, flip on the aviators, announce, I'm not running again, and stroll out the front door. He would almost be a hero for having the guts to declare victory and turn this country over to the next generation.

COOPER: And yet Van Jones, a lot of people said that before the midterms about what the Democrats prospects words (ph).

JONES: Just keep underestimating Joe Biden. Just keep doing it. Just keep doing it. I mean, the reality is, you know, my wing of the party didn't think he was going to be able to get through the primary. We thought he was going to drop out after Iowa. He got the nomination. He got the job. He's doing the job. And so I think that tonight is a night. Let's hear from the guy. Let's hear what he has to say. I think he's going to get a chance to make the case. The one open source that he's got to address, though, is the issue of police reform. This is a painful part for the deep part of his base.

The black community is still hurting and grieving. He doesn't have to die on the hill of the most of the biggest bill ever. But listen, he could correspond to a database for bad cops and stuff in his executive order. There was some of that was in Trump's executive order. He could bring people together on that and get another miracle pulled off. I just think that people keep underestimating Joe Biden and he keeps winning.

AXELROD: Yes, I mean, look, I have to agree. I think that when you look at his legislative accomplishments, when you look at the fact that he purged the Oval Office of Trump and restored some sense of normalcy and decency to it and calm, I think those are all strengths for Joe Biden.

I don't know how you -- the age issue is a difficult one to overcome, and that's --

COOPER: This is the diplomatic corps coming in.

AXELROD: And that's what he -- you know, that -- in these polls, what you see is Democrats, you know, with 82 percent say he's -- they approve of the job he's doing. And 58 percent say they don't want him to run again. That's not about his record. They approve of his record.

JENNINGS: I don't underestimate him, by the way. I think if he runs and we nominate Trump, he's probably going to win again. I mean, I believe, so I don't underestimate him.

COOPER: Doug Emhoff, the --

GRIFFIN: The thing is, the polls don't necessarily show that, there's a new ABC poll that has Trump outperforming head-to-head with Biden. And usually, you know, having worked for a vice president, you would say a VP is really just for an electoral boost in an election. But that's not the case, uniquely, in a Biden to Trump knock head-to-head because both will be, he's in his 80s, trump is 78.

So the number two on the ticket, you're basically voting, could this be the president tomorrow? And as Chris Wallace said, Kamala Harris has been getting, you know, a swath of bad press, doesn't have core legislative or policy achievements in her portfolio to point to, has kind of taken on unwinnable things like the border crisis. So that's a challenge that I'm not sure he's prepared to address.

AXELROD: Well, we're here to talk about the State of the Union, but since we're talking about the election, one of the interesting things about it is, I mean, nobody is more antithetical to Donald Trump than Joe Biden. And probably nobody needs him in some ways more than Joe Biden. I think he is a guy who Joe Biden feels he can beat, and I think Joe Biden feels that if Donald Trump doesn't get the nomination, that he'll tear your party down. And that's not a far-fetched notion.

JENNINGS: Yes, they're like two magnets that are stuck together that you find at the back of the utility drawer in your kitchen. You know, you should throw these things away, but yet you keep putting it in the drawer and shutting it. You know, you mentioned police reform, Van. I want to talk about another issue, he's apparently going to mention, which I think is a good thing.

It's the 20th anniversary of PEPFAR. Saved 25 million lives in Africa. Time to reauthorize. Good issue.

COOPER: There in the members of the Supreme Court right now. How likely is it that the President will talk about abortion?

AXELROD: I think it's -- I would be shocked if he didn't. I mean, that's an issue that he -- where he has a huge majority in the country who supports some form of abortion rights and where there's a sense that there are states out there that have gone too far. I mean, he's -- and there's a real interest in sort of regularizing abortion rights in the country. And I'm sure he'll address it. It'd be be sort surprising if he didn't.


COOPER: That was Ketanji Jackson Brown just walked in.

GRIFFIN: First time.

COOPER: Let's go back to Jake in D.C. Jake?

TAPPER: We have the five Supreme Court Justices of the Nine who just walked in, including the Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts and Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and then the newest Supreme Court Justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson. This is obviously her first State of the Union, having just recently joined the court.

Phil Mattingly at the White House, what more can we expect from the President's State of the Union address this evening?

MATTINGLY: Before we get into that, Jake, I do want to note that we do have word on one of the always outstanding questions heading into these final moments before the President starts speaking. That's which member of the Cabinet is the designated survivor?

A White House official says the designated survivor for this State of the Union address will be Marty Walsh, the Labor Secretary. For those unfamiliar with Kiefer Sutherland or the kind of tradition here, one Cabinet official will stay outside of the chamber. Given the President, the Vice president, the Speaker of the House, all of the senior leaders that are in the Capitol Building, just in case if something happens there, there is somebody outside that could have continuity of government. There's always a cabinet official, Gina Mormando, the Commerce Secretary, was the designated survivor last year. This year it is Marty Walsh. And, Jake, I would note, interestingly enough, the Labor Secretary is a very key member of President Biden's economic team, and several of the key items the President will be detailing tonight will have some ties to what the Labor Department does, but he will be the one outside of the chamber. Jake?

TAPPER: That's right. And we're seeing the First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, walk in right now. The First Lady is usually somebody who gets bipartisan support no matter whom her husband is. And there she is sitting right next to the second gentleman of the United States, Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris.

Among the First Lady are, as Jamie Gangel, was referring to earlier, a number of individuals often picked from public notice or public life or the news, who represent a specific story, represent a specific cause. We saw not only Paul Pelosi there, but the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Speaker, the President's Cabinet.

TAPPER: Here is the Cabinet of the United States. And we will see. We should note that Marty Walsh will not be there. The Secretary of Labor is about to leave the administration, so I'm kind of surprised he's not there. There is the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who recently canceled his trip to China because of the Chinese five balloon controversy. He was supposed to go to China and have a high- level meeting with Chinese leaders, and he canceled that trip.

There is a Janet Yellen, the Treasury Secretary. Behind her, the Secretary of Defense, Retired General Lloyd Austin. And there is, of course, Attorney General Merrick Garland, whom many Democrats have criticized for not acting strongly or more forcefully enough when it comes to prosecution of President Trump.

He recently appointed special counsels to take over the investigation into both Biden and a separate one for Trump. There is Deborah Haaland the Secretary of the Interior. And of course, there is -- I was going to say Xavier Becerra coming up in the back there with the Department of Health and Human Services.

You know, what's interesting, Jamie, is Marty Walsh is leaving the administration for a pretty cushy job. He's going to be head of the National Hockey League's Players Association. That's why I thought he wasn't going to be here. This is going to be his last State of the Union as a member of the Cabinet, presumably.

There's -- we can also see Denis McDonough for the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

GANGEL: Right. It's -- I actually thought the same thing because of the NHL, but this is his last moment of note before he's leaving. I just want to talk a little bit about the Supreme Court Justices for a second. So it's always interesting to watch them in these settings because they try not to be political.

You won't see them clap. You don't quit. But the Chief Justice has often said that he doesn't really like to come to these things because they're political. But he's come to many of them. I think he has one of --

TAPPER: He's come to everyone.

GANGEL: -- the records. I think it's something like 18 --

TAPPER: Even during the COVID year when almost -- nobody came, he was the only Supreme Court justice who came. We see there the Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Secretary Of Energy.

Evan Osnos, you're joining us. You're one of the preeminent biographers of Joe Biden.