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Biden to push that the U.S. spend billions of dollars more overseas in speech

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

President Biden is doing something tonight that he has only done one other time during his presidency. At 8 p.m. Eastern, he will sit behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office and deliver a prime-time address to the nation. He's been making some big promises to allies overseas, but now he's going to try to convince Americans, including lawmakers in Congress, that the U.S. should spend billions of dollars more overseas. Joining me now to talk about this is NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid. Hi, Asma.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Hi there, Ailsa.

CHANG: OK, so lay out the stakes for President Biden tonight. What is his mission here?

KHALID: Well, as you said, this is only the second time that Biden will be delivering a prime-time speech from the Oval Office. And I do think it's worth just pausing on that for a moment because of its significance. It signals the gravity of what the president is trying to convey tonight. This comes as he is seeking billions of dollars of aid for Israel and Ukraine. The White House says that he will make the case for why Americans should continue to support democracies that were attacked unprovoked and why that is in America's national interest.

This speech tonight is expected to last just about 15 to 20 minutes. And I will say it's not just a message geared toward the American public. It is also directed directly at lawmakers here in Washington about why they should fund these wars overseas. You know, Biden sees the rule of law internationally at stake in this moment, and he sees the U.S. as being a real leader that needs to step in.

I will also say, Ailsa, that this comes, I think, at a real critical time just in terms of what is going on with these conflicts.

CHANG: Yeah.

KHALID: As the invasion of Ukraine has continued on for more than a year and a half, polls have shown support amongst Americans is waning, and it is particularly weak amongst GOP voters. I'm sure you have heard some Republican lawmakers vocally oppose more aid for Ukraine, especially, they say, when they don't know what the end goal in that conflict is.

And then when you talk about Israel, on the left flank of Biden's own party, there are humanitarian concerns about Israel's response to the Hamas terrorist attacks and what will become of civilians on the Gaza Strip who have not had access to water, food, medicine. The president did say yesterday that he has helped broker a deal to get some aid in via the Egypt-Gaza border, but it's not clear, ultimately, when a ground invasion begins, what that devastation could look like.

CHANG: Exactly. OK, so Biden is seeking more money for all of these different priorities. How much more are we talking?

KHALID: I will say that has been in development for weeks. We are expected to hear more details soon, possibly as early as tomorrow. In Tel Aviv yesterday, the president himself said that he will be asking for a, quote, "unprecedented military package" for Israel. And earlier today, he also spoke with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy by phone about this U.S. support. You know, you probably recall he made a pitch for Ukraine funding earlier this year, but that pitch was not successful. And so...

CHANG: Right.

KHALID: ...Here Biden is, trying again, asking for billions of dollars more - not just for Ukraine, but also for Israel as well as some other priorities. And we know, you know, for example, this White House has been looking for money around issues at the southern border as well.

CHANG: OK, so it's going to be a hard ask, but with what's also going on in Congress with the lack of a speaker of the House, how does that affect what Biden is asking for?

KHALID: I will say it affects it significantly because, without a speaker, it is unclear how any votes can be held on spending bills.

CHANG: Right. Well, what if Biden doesn't get this money? What would that mean for him politically, you think?

KHALID: I mean, the president really sees these conflicts, both in Ukraine and Israel, as existential fights. He made promises to U.S. allies, and he sees this as a moment in which the United States' reputation is on the line and, frankly, a moment in which his own credibility is also at stake. And part of Biden's message as president and part of his reelection bid is that he is reasserting America's leadership on the world stage after his predecessor's more isolationist approach.

I want to also note, Ailsa, that the White House feels its position, particularly in Israel, is broadly popular in both parties. The big unknown is what a ground invasion looks like in the week ahead - weeks ahead and if Biden's own Democratic Party will stand behind him because we do know that while a majority of Americans agree the U.S. should support Israel, that support is weaker among independents...

CHANG: Right.

KHALID: ...Younger voters and people of color.

CHANG: That is NPR's Asma Khalid. Thank you so much, Asma.

KHALID: Happy to do it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.