Bipartisanship in the State of the Union

The U.S. Capitol Building

Bipartisanship in the State of the Union

The State of the Union is more than just an update on how the country’s doing, it’s an opportunity for presidents to share their priorities for the nation. Indeed, the U.S. Constitution calls for the president to “recommend to [Congress] such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient” during the annual address.

With that in mind, how “necessary and expedient” do presidents consider bipartisanship? Let’s look at their transcripts to find out.

From 2017 to 2022, Presidents Biden and Trump spoke about 36,500 words across six speeches. Here are some noteworthy phrases and how often each president used them:

Bipartisan -12 times

  • Biden - 8 times
  • Trump - 4 times

Unity/unite -12

  • Biden - 5
  • Trump - 7

Both parties -11

  • Biden - 1
  • Trump - 10

Democrats, Republicans, and Independents (any order) -14

  • Biden - 7
  • Trump - 7

Together -30

  • Biden - 10
  • Trump - 20

Sometimes, those phrases were used in a general sense – such as President Trump declaring he was there “to deliver a message of unity and strength” or President Biden proclaiming, “Tonight, we meet as Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. But most importantly as Americans.”

More often, the presidents invoked them with a purpose, calling for specific legislation. When this happened, three policy areas stood out among the rest:

  • Healthcare received 13 bipartisan appeals, including lowering prescription drug prices, combatting the opioid epidemic, and curing diseases like cancer and HIV
  • Crime/police reform was brought up 11 times, ranging from touting the passage of the bipartisan First Step Act to calling for more police officers to condemning police misconduct
  • Infrastructure was the goal 9 times, headlined by the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in 2021 with No Labels’ support

The State of the Union is the president’s biggest stage of the year, and the last two officeholders have used it to urge bipartisan solutions. Will this year’s Congress follow through?