It’s been a tumultuous year since President Biden declared the “State of the Union” to be strong in his first address to Congress 11 months ago. From the migrant surge at the U.S.-Mexico border, to record-high gas prices and inflation, to a shortage of baby formula, to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration has had its hands full. Despite the president’s approval rating rising from 40.6% to 43.9%, it has been a year of crisis and controversy.
The most recent crisis to hit the White House has been the discovery of a Chinese spy balloon flying across the U.S. and gathering intelligence on strategic sites throughout the Midwest. After a delayed response, a U.S. military fighter jet shot the balloon out of the sky over the Atlantic Ocean. Republican lawmakers were quick to criticize the administration for being too weak.
The president has also been heavily criticized for a scandal revolving around how he mishandled classified documents from his tenure in the Obama administration. Over the course of the last several weeks, multiple batches of classified documents, some of which were marked “top secret,” have been found at various locations belonging to Biden. The White House has stated that it has been transparent about the search for documents, but critics have accused Biden of purposely staying quiet on the scandal until after the 2022 midterm election.
The border crisis has also sparked calls for Biden to take more aggressive action on immigration and some Republicans have supported moving forward with a resolution to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. According to the Customs and Border Protection, migrant encounters in December surpassed 250,000 for the first time on record and border encounters have already hit a record high in fiscal year 2023.
The Biden administration has also grappled with a baby formula shortage that has wreaked chaos on parents across the country. In mid-February 2022, baby formula maker Abbott Nutrition shut down its production plant in Michigan, leading to a shortage in the ensuing months that has stretched to 2023. In response, Biden ordered various agencies to devote resources to addressing the supply chain issues and the White House unveiled “Operation Fly Formula” as part of the effort.
Inflation has also remained a key concern of Americans since Biden’s last State of the Union speech. In June, months after the address, inflation surged 9.1% year-over-year, the fastest uptick of its kind since 1981. Rising consumer prices have impacted nearly every aspect of Americans’ lives from energy and food to shelter, apparel and everyday goods. While inflation has fallen below 7%, it remains far higher than government targets and the Federal Reserve has continued tightening interest rates which could have negative reverberations throughout the U.S. economy.
Energy prices like heating and gasoline costs have particularly put strain on American families. Pump prices increased past $5 per gallon in mid-June, hitting their highest level ever recorded before falling again, but currently remain 46% higher than when Biden took office.
The president has also had to contend with Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, sending the war-torn country tens of billions of dollars in military aid over the past nearly 12 months. Experts, though, have forecasted the conflict will continue to rage throughout 2023 which may be the bloodiest year of the war, likely forcing the president to make additional decisions on how much support he will offer Ukraine.
As President Biden prepares to deliver his next State of the Union address on Feb. 7, it is clear that the nation has faced a series of domestic and foreign policy crises since his first address. From the migrant surge, to the baby formula shortage, to the Chinese spy balloon, to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration has had its hands full. It remains to be seen how the president will address the nation’s issues in his upcoming speech, but one thing is for sure: the State of the Union is anything but strong.