By Darlene Superville, Zeke Miller and Seung Min Kim, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will outline some new steps Tuesday to go after illegal drugs, help veterans and cancer patients, and provide more access to mental health care.
It will be a somewhat new version of steps Biden outlined in these four areas during last year’s State of the Union address. He called it a “unity agenda,” saying the issues are ones that lawmakers and the public could unite around regardless of political affiliation.
Biden will use his State of the Union address Tuesday night to outline new steps to tackle illicit drugs, help veterans and cancer patients, and make mental health care more available, according to aides who previewed the details before the speech.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Biden would outline a “forceful approach” for going after fentanyl and expanding public health efforts to reduce deaths by drug overdose. That includes using advanced technology to seize fentanyl at the border and working with commercial delivery companies to intercept packages, among other steps, he said.
Biden will ask Congress to reauthorize the National Cancer Act, which was enacted more than a half century ago, to help update U.S. cancer research and care systems.
The president will address suicide among veterans by helping states and territories invest in community-based programs and expand educational resources.
In the area of mental health, particularly for children, Biden will again call on Congress to support banning online advertising targeted to young people and to improve data privacy and transparency across the board. Biden included these protections in his agenda last year, but Congress has not yet passed legislation to address it. He’ll also discuss ways to connect more people to mental health care.
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who gained a national profile as Trump’s press secretary, will deliver the Republican response to Biden’s speech.
The setting for Biden’s speech will look markedly different from a year ago, when it was Democratic stalwart Nancy Pelosi seated behind him as House speaker. She’s been replaced by Republican Kevin McCarthy, and it’s unclear what kind of reception restive Republicans in the chamber will give the Democratic president.
McCarthy on Monday vowed to be “respectful” during the address and in turn asked Biden to refrain from using the phrase “extreme MAGA Republicans,” which the president deployed on the campaign trail in 2022.
“I won’t tear up the speech, I won’t play games,” McCarthy told reporters, a reference to Pelosi’s dramatic action after President Donald Trump’s final State of the Union address.