2024 State of the Union

On March 7th, President Biden will give his 2024 State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. The Constitution stipulates that the President must report to Congress “Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he (sic.) shall judge necessary and expedient.”[i]

What issues are most “necessary and expedient” for you? Your list may differ from the President’s, but hopefully he will touch on some of the issues you believe are key to building a Just World For All. Below are some predictions and hopes of what the UCC Washington D.C. office will hear.


A recent Gallup poll cited that immigration has rose to the top of the “important problem” list for the first time since 2019. It will almost certainly be a topic that President Biden addresses as public concern grows over the need to address the number of people seeking asylum from violence or severe financial hardship. In December, the administration backed harmful changes to U.S. asylum policies in an effort to get funding for Israel and Ukraine passed through Congress. While this proposal was not passed, the President is facing mounting pressure from both Republicans and Democrats and may take this opportunity to tout ways he is “securing the border”. Yet we are failing to uphold our values as a nation of immigrants to welcome the stranger, as well as our legal obligation to offer asylum to those fleeing violence. As advocates, we will be listening to see if the President signals any willingness to move away from a system built (like the criminal justice system) on detention and deterrence and toward one instead built on deeper American values of welcome and safe refuge.

Gaza, Ukraine, and global crises

On foreign affairs, we expect the crisis in Gaza to be the focus. Support for Israel is one area of bipartisan support, despite Israel’s involvement in the mass killing of Palestinian civilians and the complete destruction of Gaza’s medical system, education system, and cultural sites. While more members of Congress are now advocating for a ceasefire, and the Administration has signaled support for a temporary, six-week ceasefire, President Biden has in many ways fallen short in his advocacy for Palestinians, failing to hold Israel accountable for the killing of over 30,000 Palestinians since October, including more than 12,300 children. President Biden is also likely to reiterate his support for Ukraine and push for Congress to pass an aid package to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. We also hope that President Biden talks about efforts towards peace in other, less-well covered conflicts, like the one in Sudan. As a Just Peace Church, we hope to see our nation support efforts toward diplomacy and de-escalation in all these conflicts, finding creative ways to reduce threats and build peace, rather than funding increased militarism and global oppression.

The economy

We anticipate the economy will be front and center in the President’s speech given the upcoming presidential election and ongoing economic uncertainty. Currently, the U.S. economy is on firmer footing, defying warnings of a recession. Yet while inflation may now be easing and unemployment falling, many are still paying higher prices for essential goods and large corporations continue to lay off employees as their own profit margins rise. And vulnerable communities still lack the resources they need to thrive. For example, the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) expired in 2021, delaying progress towards addressing child poverty. Yet, this past February the House passed the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024, which would make it easier for more families to qualify for the CTC and could lift almost half a million children above the poverty line in its first year of implementation. While this legislation has not yet been passed into law and falls short of the landmark legislation passed in 2021, it marks a reinvigoration of the movement to expand and reform the CTC. We hope President Biden will highlight his support for the passage of an expanded and reformed CTC along with other economic and safety net programs, such as paid family and medical leave, universal childcare, and worker protections. Throughout, we will be listening for any mention of addressing the racial wealth gap – such as support for a commission on reparations.

Budget negotiations
Also expect to hear the President take a jab at the ongoing struggle to fully fund the U.S. government, including critical programs such as the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) program. As a first step towards robust funding through September, yesterday the House passed a Consolidated Appropriations Act that will fully fund the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs, as well as the National Science Foundation, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency in addition to some smaller agencies. The Senate is expected to pass the bill by the end of the week. This marks a first step towards fully funding the government through September, when the fiscal year ends. While this legislation1 avoids significant cuts to social welfare programs and reproductive health care access, supports America’s farmers, increases aviation safety, increases funding for toxic waste cleanups, and preserves pay for wildfire firefighters, it also cuts billions of dollars from the government’s environmental protection, conservation, and lands preservation work. And, unfortunately, there seems to be little to no agreement on finalizing the remaining six funding bills. The rest of the government’s funding has been temporarily extended to March 22.

For us, the larger issue at stake here is the misguided priorities of our federal budget. Congress’s most recent funding proposal for the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2024 budget gives the Department of Defense more than $831 billion in total funding2, more than $31 billion more3 than all nondefense domestic funding passed in fiscal year 2023. This disparity between defense and non-defense priorities points to our deep failure as a nation to align our budget with our values. As advocates, we will continue to push for a government that prioritizes people over the pentagon.

Gun Violence and Community Safety

Despite a national decrease in violent crime, gun violence and community safety remain a pressing concern. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there were over 18,000 gun-related deaths in 2023, not including suicides. The archive also reports there have been 70 mass shootings already this year. Implementation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and the President’s Safer America Plan have seen enhanced background checks keep guns away from those who would be a danger to themselves and others, investments in mental health supports in schools, and dedicated funding for community violence intervention programs. While these measures indicate the Biden Administration’s understanding that addressing violence and crime in our communities requires a holistic approach, the Administration’s budget and policy proposals still heavily skew toward reinstituting the reactive 1994 Crime Bill policies of increased policing, criminalization, and incarceration.

More policy work must be done to further reduce gun violence. We still need universal background checks for all gun sales and exchanges, and the assault weapons ban reinstituted to remove weapons of war from our streets. We also must expand our collective imagination and think beyond police and incarceration as the only means of protecting our communities. Congress and the Administration must promote increased funding and scaling of proven violence intervention and prevention programs, as well as increased investment in promoting social welfare to reduce the risk of the most vulnerable of turning to violence in the first place. There should also be more emphasis placed on supporting victims and survivors of the trauma of gun violence in our communities.

Reproductive health and abortion access

We anticipate the President will mention the ongoing fight for reproductive healthcare access, including access to services related to abortion and, most recently, fertility. On February 16, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in LePage v. Center for Reproductive Medicine, that embryos held in a cryopreservation tank were legally equivalent to living children, thereby endangering in vitro fertilization services in the state. The State of the Union will be an opportunity for President Biden to rebuke state actions like these, which criminalize personal health care decisions. As the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Defense continue to defend access to abortion medication for military servicemembers in the Supreme Court, our office will continue to fight for the codification of the Women’s Health Protection Act to protect the full range of reproductive healthcare, including access to abortion. The UCC has affirmed bodily autonomy and access to safe and legal abortion care for over 40 years, and 2024 is a critical year to continue this fight.

Climate crisis

At last year’s United Nations Climate Conference in Dubai (COP28), the U.S. was one of nearly 200 nations to join a new climate deal that would see a full transition away from fossil fuels, an urgent and necessary economic shift to avert the most calamitous impacts of climate change. Though it remains to be seen if and how the agreeing nations will follow through on the non-binding deal, the deal has bolstered efforts already underway to transition our economy toward renewable energy. Congressional Budget Office projections signal greater-than-expected investment in electric vehicles, wind, and solar thanks to the associated tax credits made available by the Inflation Reduction Act, in conjunction with new regulations designed to significantly cut carbon emissions. The President also issued a temporary pause on pending approvals of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. However, responses like H.R. 7176 only puts off what the global community now considers an inevitable end to the age of fossil fuels.

As one of the largest contributors to global emissions wreaking havoc upon God’s creation, the U.S. should commit to leading the green transition. It should also ensure that it does so with justice and equity to the most vulnerable, frontline community both at home and abroad. We must rectify environmental injustice in communities like Flint, MI and Red Hill in Oahu, HI. We also must be proactive in guarding against the environmental and health hazards of extracting the critical minerals necessary for solar panels and batteries.

Other legislative wins

We also anticipate President Biden will tout his legislative wins from the past few years, focusing on its implementation by his administration. For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs just announced that starting today, all veterans exposed to toxins or other hazards during military service at home or abroad will be eligible for VA healthcare, due to the funding authorized by the PACT Act, which was passed in 2022. This past February, the Administration announced it would funnel $5 billion authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act to semiconductor-related research, development, and workforce needs. In October, the Administration announced it would be sending $61 billion to states for road and bridge repair, authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in 2021. And, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services recently published additional guidance for implementing its delayed payment plan for prescription drugs, a key program for older adults that was authorized in the Inflation Reduction Act. A divided House and Senate has stalled the more recent legislative packages that the Administration has endorsed, including a border deal, foreign policy supplemental funding package, and the reauthorization of the Farm bill, and the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act. We expect a similar dynamic to continue through the end of this Congress, even as we fight for just policy, focused on lifting up the vulnerable and providing for the wellbeing of everyone, here and across the globe.

Voting and elections

While we don’t expect President Biden to mention former President Trump by name, we expect the election will be the common thread running through this speech as primary elections continue around the country. Expect him to highlight the importance of voting and the need to protect the integrity of and trust in the electoral process.

And also HOPE

The issues we face as a nation and global community are many. We want to hear President Biden reflect the reality of these dangers, and we hope he will be able to provide a sense of how this nation will shift course towards a more just and peaceful future. We are a nation that has been through seasons of war, disasters, and disease before. We must, as a nation, tap into our lineages of resilience so we can turn towards peace, seek the public good, and ensure the health and rights of all. We truly hope that a brighter future is on the horizon. May it be so.  And as President Biden is sure to say, May God Bless the United States (and all God’s people everywhere)!

Want to follow-along with the President’s State of the Union Address? Check out this UCC State of the Union BINGO CARD!

[i] For more information on the history of the State of the Union, see this report https://sgp.fas.org/crs/misc/R44770.pdf

[1] House Committee on Appropriations, Democrats, Summary of Legislation

[2] Senate Committee on Appropriations, Democrats, Press Release

[3] House Committee on Appropriations, Democrats, Press Release

Categories: Getting to the Root of It

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