Every president announces a slew of initiatives in a State of the Union address, and we can expect many to be advanced on Tuesday when President Biden goes before Congress. Here, in order of delivery, is a summary of 39 key proposals, pledges or priorities he announced in his address last March — and what happened to them.
With Democrats only narrowly in control of the House and Senate during 2022, Biden’s record on legislation is mixed, but he fared better than he did in his first year in office.
Biden: “We are inflicting pain on Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine. … We are cutting off Russia’s largest banks from the international financial system. Preventing Russia’s central bank from defending the Russian ruble, making Putin’s $630 billion ‘war fund’ worthless.”
✖ Biden was wrong about this. Putin’s “Fortress Russia” strategy was partially successful, as skilled central bank officials were able to hold onto more than $250 billion in foreign reserves. That, plus huge jumps in the price of oil and natural gas because of the war, prevented the Russian economy from collapsing quickly.
Biden: “The U.S. Department of Justice is assembling a dedicated task force to go after the crimes of Russian oligarchs. We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets. We are coming for your ill-begotten gains.”
✔ The United States and its allies have seized more than 15 Russian superyachts, such as a $300 million vessel owned by Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov in Fiji. But there is a catch: Taxpayers are paying millions to keep the yachts shipshape. A Bloomberg News reporter says that yacht seized in Fiji — and then sailed to San Diego — will cost at least $10 million per year to maintain.
Biden: “The ruble has lost 30 percent of its value. The Russian stock market has lost 40 percent of its value and trading remains suspended. The Russian economy is reeling, and Putin alone is the one to blame.”
✖ Biden incorrectly predicted havoc for the Russian economy as a result of sanctions. The International Monetary Fund last week predicted that Russia’s economy would grow faster in 2023 than Germany’s or Britain’s, in part because the domestic war economy has made up for losses in other industries. The value of the ruble to the U.S. dollar pretty quickly rebounded to its prewar level and even reached a five-year high in July. The MOEX Russia Index, which tracks Russian stocks, reached a five-year high in October but since has fallen significantly, to the level at the time of Biden’s speech.
Biden: “We are giving more than $1 billion in direct assistance to Ukraine. And we will continue to aid the Ukrainian people as they defend their country and to help ease their suffering.”
✔ Biden was right that the United States would continue giving aid to Ukraine, but even he might have been surprised by the amount. By year’s end, the United States had provided about $50 billion, with about half in security assistance and the rest in humanitarian and financial support, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
The United States has provided more aid than any other country in raw dollars but ranks ninth when the sum is measured as a percentage of the gross domestic product. Overall in 2022, Congress approved $113 billion in aid to Ukraine, about three-fifths allocated to defense needs, according to the Committee for a Responsible Budget, so the money will keep flowing in 2023.
Biden: “Let me be clear, our forces are not engaged and will not engage in conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine.”
✔ So far, that’s been the case.
Biden: “We’ll build a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations.”
✔ The infrastructure bill signed by Biden includes $5 billion for states to build a national charging network and an additional $2.5 billion for a competitive grant program for communities. In August, the administration announced that all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had submitted plans to tap the money for the charging network. The goal is to have 500,000 charging stations in place by 2030.
Biden: “Begin to replace poisonous lead pipes, so every child — and every American — has clean water to drink at home and at school.”
✔ About $55 billion in the infrastructure law is devoted to wastewater, drinking water and water supply. The White House in 2021 released a plan that included guidance that outlines “the critical steps local water systems should take to achieve 100% lead service line replacement.” Experts say the money in the infrastructure bill is still not enough to fully replace 100 percent of lead pipes.
Biden: “Provide affordable high-speed internet for every American — urban, suburban, rural and tribal communities.”
✔ The infrastructure bill included $65 billion allocated to broadband expansion, which will be administered by the Commerce Department.
Biden: “When we use taxpayers’ dollars to rebuild America, we’re going to do it by buying American. Buy American products. Support American jobs.”
✔ In October, the Biden administration began implementing a regulation that raises the domestic content threshold for federal procurements, with some exceptions, from 55 percent to 60 percent in 2022, eventually reaching 75 percent by 2029. Biden also named a director of a new Made in America office in the Office of Management and Budget.
Biden: “It is so important to pass the Bipartisan Innovation Act sitting in Congress that will make record investments in emerging technologies and American manufacturing.”
✔ By the time this bill emerged from tortuous negotiations in Congress in August, its name had changed to the CHIPS and Science Act, with its centerpiece $52 billion in subsidies for U.S. semiconductor manufacturers. It was a trimmed-down version of the bill Biden pushed for, but he can still call it a win.
Biden: “My top priority is getting prices under control.”
? Inflation has been a political albatross for Biden, in part because some economists believe his massive COVID relief bill in 2021 may have exacerbated the problem. But getting inflation under control is mainly the job of the Federal Reserve, which has the most effective tools, such as raising interest rates, to combat it.
Inflation was 8.5 percent last March, when Biden gave his speech. The most recent Survey of Professional Forecasters projects a slowdown from 5.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022 to 2.9 percent in 2023 — close to the Fed’s target of 2 percent. “We can now say I think for the first time that the disinflationary process has started,” Federal Reserve chairman Jerome H. Powell said last week, when the Fed hiked interest rates yet again. But he said it was too soon to declare victory: “We will need substantially more evidence to be confident that inflation is on a long, sustained downward path.”
Biden: “Let’s cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month so everyone can afford it.”
✖ Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act would have capped the cost of insulin at $35 for all Americans, but Senate Republicans used a parliamentary rule to strip that provision out of the bill. The law does provide a $35 monthly cap on insulin for people 65 and older on Medicare.
Biden: “While we’re at it, let Medicare negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs, like the VA already does.”
✔ A law signed by George W. Bush prevented the federal government from having a direct role in negotiating or setting the prices for drugs in Medicare Part D, which are offered through pharmacies via private health plans. Democrats have long sought to repeal this provision, and the Inflation Reduction Act achieved that goal in a limited way. It empowered the Health and Human Services secretary to negotiate prices for selected drugs — 10 at first, starting in 2026, with the number growing to 20 a year by 2029 — that have little competition and account for substantial spending.
Biden: “The American Rescue Plan is helping millions of families on Affordable Care Act plans save $2,400 a year on their health care premiums. Let’s close the coverage gap and make those savings permanent.”
✔ Biden was referring to a provision that made more taxpayers eligible for premium tax credits to buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act — and which offered a more generous subsidy to people who already qualify. It was due to expire on Jan. 1, but the Inflation Reduction Act extended the subsidies through 2025. The administration also issued a rule that fixed a “family glitch” that had made 5 million Americans ineligible for premium tax credits.
Biden: “Cut energy costs for families an average of $500 a year by combating climate change.”
✖ This claim about Biden’s American Rescue Plan turned out to be a Four-Pinocchio falsehood. The $500 figure had been plucked by White House staff from a research report examining Biden’s climate change policies. The savings was predicted to take place eight years from now — not a lot of help with the current inflation problem. Moreover, the report said the savings on utility bills was no more than $5. So the president was off by a factor of 100.
Biden: “Cut the cost of child care. … Middle-class and working families shouldn’t have to pay more than 7 percent of their income for care of young children. My plan will cut the cost in half for most families and help parents, including millions of women, who left the workforce during the pandemic because they couldn’t afford child care, to be able to get back to work.”
✖ Biden’s child-care proposals were stripped from the Inflation Reduction Act before passage as the president’s ambitious agenda was limited mostly to green-energy incentives and health care changes.
Biden: “My plan doesn’t stop there. It also includes home and long-term care …”
✖ Biden agreed to drop this proposal to help older adults and people with disabilities to win passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Biden: ” … More affordable housing …”
✖ Biden’s plan for more than $300 billion on affordable housing and tax credits also fell victim to congressional negotiations. The administration has issued rules intended to close a housing shortfall and lower costs.
Biden: ” … And pre-K for every 3- and 4-year-old.”
✖ Biden’s proposal for universal preschool was stripped from the final bill.
Biden: “Under my plan, nobody earning less than $400,000 a year will pay an additional penny in new taxes.”
✔ Biden kept his promise on this.
Biden: “Let’s make sure corporations and the wealthiest Americans start paying their fair share.”
✖ Most of Biden’s tax hikes aimed at companies and the wealthy were dropped in the final bill. He did win approval of a 15 percent minimum tax on corporate book income for corporations — what is publicly reported to shareholders — with average annual adjusted financial statement income that exceeds $1 billion for any three consecutive prior tax years. The Tax Foundation estimated that would raise $153 billion over ten years — a relative pittance — and it could be less if companies figure out how to avoid it.
Biden: “Confirm my nominees to the Federal Reserve, which plays a critical role in fighting inflation.”
✔ By July, Biden’s full slate of nominees had been approved by the Senate.
Biden: “My plan will not only lower costs to give families a fair shot, it will lower the deficit . … By the end of this year, the deficit will be down to less than half what it was before I took office.”
✖ Biden was technically right, but he is playing a shell game here. The Congressional Budget Office, the official scorekeeper, in February 2021 already estimated the budget deficit would fall dramatically in fiscal 2021 and 2022 because emergency pandemic spending would lapse. But then Biden enacted additional COVID relief funds and other new policies, resulting in the more modest decline in the deficit. The budget deficit was expected to fall even more in 2022, and it has under Biden. But the combined 2021 and 2022 budget deficits were projected by CBO to be $3.31 trillion. Now, CBO says they will be $3.81 trillion. In other words, Biden is bragging about reducing budget deficits even as he increased the national debt about $500 billion more than originally projected.
Biden: “When corporations don’t have to compete, their profits go up, your prices go up, and small businesses and family farmers and ranchers go under. We see it happening with ocean carriers moving goods in and out of America. During the pandemic, these foreign-owned companies raised prices by as much as 1,000 percent and made record profits. Tonight, I’m announcing a crackdown on these companies overcharging American businesses and consumers.”
✔ In June, Biden signed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which increases the authority of the Federal Maritime Commission to investigate ocean shipping fees and order refunds for unreasonable charges.
Biden: “Medicare is going to set higher standards for nursing homes and make sure your loved ones get the care they deserve and expect.”
✔ The administration in August launched an effort to determine minimum staffing requirements for nursing homes.
Biden: “Let’s pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and paid leave.”
✖ The measure to eliminate pay disparities between men and women was approved by the House in 2021 but was blocked in the Senate. Biden had included paid family and medical leave in his failed Build Back Better plan but eventually dropped it.
Biden: “Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.”
✖ A bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025 never came to a vote in 2022.
Biden: “Extend the Child Tax Credit, so no one has to raise a family in poverty.”
✖ Congress failed to extend the expanded child-tax credit provisions enacted in Biden’s first year, despite efforts to add it to the year-end spending bill.
Biden: “Let’s increase Pell Grants and increase our historic support of HBCUs.”
✔ In the year-end spending bill, Congress boosted the maximum Pell Grant award to $7,395, a $500 increase, which came on top of a $400 increase the year before. Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), which had received about $5 billion in COVID funds and debt relief, also earned an increase in funding in the year-end spending bill — $396 million, an increase of $33 million over the level enacted in fiscal year 2022.
Biden: “Let’s pass the PRO Act — when a majority of workers want to form a union, they shouldn’t be stopped.”
✖ The House passed the pro-union bill in 2021, on a vote of 225 to 206, but, despite a big push by labor groups, it never came to a vote in the Senate in 2022.
Biden: “I ask Congress to pass proven measures to reduce gun violence. Pass universal background checks. Why should anyone on a terrorist list be able to purchase a weapon? And, folks, ban assault weapons with high-capacity magazines that hold up to 100 rounds. You think the deer are wearing Kevlar vests? Repeal the liability shield that makes gun manufacturers the only industry in America that can’t be sued — the only one.”
✔ None of these specific gun proposals became law, but Biden earns a check mark because in June he signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act — the first major gun-control legislation passed by Congress in nearly three decades. Congress was moved to act after two mass killings — first at a Buffalo supermarket and then at a Texas elementary school. Two key provisions of the law expanded background checks on people between the ages of 18 and 21 and provided incentives for states to pass red-flag (“extreme risk”) laws, which generally allow police to take firearms away from people who exhibit concerning behavior.
Biden: “I call on the Senate to: Pass the Freedom to Vote Act. Pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. And while you’re at it, pass the Disclose Act so Americans can know who is funding our elections.”
✖ None of these election-related proposals became law. The Disclose Act, which would require “dark money” groups to disclose donors who contribute more than $10,000, failed 49-49 on a procedural vote in the Senate. The Freedom to Vote Act, which would set nationwide standards for ballot access, and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which reverse a 2013 Supreme Court decision that struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, passed the House but also were blocked in the Senate on procedural votes.
Biden: “Provide a pathway to citizenship for ‘Dreamers,’ those on temporary status, farmworkers, and essential workers.”
✖ The House in 2021 passed the latest version of this legislation, which would give a path to citizenship for “Dreamers” who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents as children or who overstayed their visas as children. But no progress was made in the Senate, despite a last-minute effort to reach a deal as the session ended.
Biden: “The constitutional right affirmed in Roe v. Wade — standing precedent for half a century — is under attack as never before. If we want to go forward — not backward — we must protect access to health care. Preserve a woman’s right to choose.”
✖ The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, allowing states to immediately terminate abortion rights. An effort to codify the right to abortion into law passed in the House but failed twice in the Senate.
Biden: “And for our LGBTQ+ Americans, let’s finally get the bipartisan Equality Act to my desk. The onslaught of state laws targeting transgender Americans and their families is wrong.”
✖ The bill, which would prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, passed the House in 2021 but did not come to a vote in the Senate. Congress, however, passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which protected same-sex and interracial marriages.
Biden: “Soon, we’ll strengthen the Violence Against Women Act that I first wrote three decades ago. It is important for us to show the nation that we can come together and do big things.”
✔ ️Ten days after his speech, Congress sent Biden a bill that reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act through 2027.
Biden: “It’s time to strengthen privacy protections; ban targeted advertising to children; demand tech companies stop collecting personal data on our children.”
✖ The American Data and Privacy Act, which has bipartisan support, was reported favorably by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Dec. 30, but neither the House nor Senate passed comprehensive privacy legislation. The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act, approved in December, sought to protect the personally identifiable information of federal judges from resale or being displayed on various internet sites.
Biden: “I’m also calling on Congress: Pass a law to make sure veterans devastated by toxic exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan finally get the benefits and comprehensive health care they deserve.”
✔ ️In August, Biden signed into law the Honoring Our Pact Act to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Biden: “I call on Congress to fund ARPA-H, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health.”
✔ ️Biden asked for $6.5 billion to fund ARPA-H, a new agency to focus on finding cures for cancer and other diseases. Congress provided only $1 billion. Still, any funding can be counted as a win.