Sen. Kaine discusses President's address, economy, reelection and more

Sen. Kaine speaks with Scripps News ahead of President Joe Biden's State of the Union address.
Posted at 12:37 PM, Feb 06, 2023

One of the Senate's most influential voices — Sen. Tim Kaine — says he hopes President Joe Biden will tout the country's economic gains during the State of the Union Tuesday night, and also address that more needs to be done.  

"Everywhere I go in Virginia, my employers — it could be a restaurant be a hospital, could be a farmer could be a contracting firm — they're having a hard time hiring enough people. So I want to hear about well, what are the strategies to make sure the American workforce is, you know, full and productive," Kaine said.  

To help in that effort, Kaine is spearheading a bill to expand the type of learning Pell Grants can be used for. It's a mission that was a lonely one when he first introduced the idea in 2014. But with dozens of bipartisan cosponsors now, he thinks the time is right. 

"A lot of high-quality training for welding, iron working and some allied health professions, you can do a high-quality training program, and it tends to be an eight-week program. That's eight hours a day, five days a week. So, 40 times eight, 320 hours — it's often five times as many classroom hours as a 15-week college course, but you can't get a Pell Grant for it," said Kaine.  

The president is likely to address the debt limit debate in his Tuesday night speech. Kaine supports President Biden's call to keep budget cuts as a separate issue. If Republicans want to reduce spending, Kaine says they have a chance to do that every year during budget negotiations. 

State of the Union 2023 viewing guide

State of the Union 2023 viewing guide

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is expected to give the GOP's response to the address.


"If Republicans want to lower spending, then they write a budget that lowers spending. Now, the Democratic Senate will probably write a different budget, but then, we have to sit down and hash it out. I think the public does want to see us negotiate, but they want to see us negotiate on spending, not negotiate about whether America is suddenly going to be a deadbeat creditor for the first time in our history," said Kaine. 

Making progress on other hot button issues, like abortion and guns, can seem impossible with a divided Congress, but Kaine says that's no reason to give up.  

"We had a six-year-old bring a gun to class in Newport News, Virginia, and grievously injure a teacher there. So we're just seeing this too, too much. So we need to do more. … It will be hard with the Republican House, no doubt about it. But, it wasn't easy last year and we found a breakthrough that we hadn't found for 25 years. So, there's no reason to give up," said Kaine.  

The 64-year-old Democrat recently announced his plans to run for re-election in 2024. But he would not comment on whether it's time for President Biden to do the same.  

"There's family, there's health, there's just all kinds of things you have to factor in. So, I would not give President Biden, or anyone, advice on how to make this very personal decision," said Kaine.