3 takeaways from Biden’s State of the Union address
1. A bipartisan theme, with some harsh words sprinkled throughout
The last time Biden gave a major speech was in September, when he used a prime-time speech to utter harsh words about Republican efforts to void the 2020 election, and said the efforts of what he called the “MAGA Republicans” posed a threat. to democracy.
Tuesday’s speech was much more ambitious, albeit with some tense moments mixed in. And despite what could be an acrimonious 2024 campaign ahead, Biden has clearly made a decision to preach bipartisanship extensively.
Early in his speech, he hailed the rise of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California) as Speaker of the House and the new status of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as House Leader. of the oldest Senate in history.
He touted his first two years in office as a surprising victory for bipartisanship, saying it proved skeptics wrong about the ability of the two sides to come together on issues such as infrastructure and toxic burning hotspots.
“To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason that we can’t work together and find consensus on important things in this Congress as well,” Biden said.
Biden focused specifically on the infrastructure bill, which won major GOP votes in the Senate — and which came with some slight ribbing. (Previous moments had, too — like when Biden paired his congratulations to McConnell with praise for Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) for expanding his majority.)
“I want to thank my Republican friends who voted for the law and my Republican friends who also voted against it,” Biden said. “I am always asked to fund projects in these districts as well. But do not worry. I promised that I would be a president for all Americans.
And it wasn’t all the love in the building, of course. Biden has spoken hard lines on the upcoming debt ceiling debate, drawing ridicule from Republicans for reporting high deficits under Donald Trump and accusing them of attempted hostage-taking.
“Under the previous administration, the US deficit has grown four years in a row,” Biden said. “Because of these record deficits, no president has added more to the national debt in four years than my predecessor.”
He added, amid some mockery from the GOP: “[Republicans] lifted the debt ceiling three times without preconditions or crisis.
Republicans have taken particular issue with Biden, alluding to a plan promoted by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) to end all federal programs after five years and force their reauthorization, which Democrats say could apply to popular entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. The GOP largely avoided Scott’s plan, and many prominent Republicans insisted they would not cut Social Security and Medicare.
McCarthy said before the speech that he asked Biden not to use phrases used in the past like “extreme MAGA Republicans.” Biden did not use such a phrase on Tuesday.
2. A preview of the 2024 messaging
Biden’s digs into Trump’s deficits weren’t the only indicator of the upcoming presidential race. He also largely tailored his speech to blue-collar voters.
He rang “Big Oil” for reaping record profits when gas prices were at record highs, “Big Pharma” for drug prices, and “Big Tech” for collecting too much personal information, in especially on children. He also said he would ban companies from requiring workers to sign non-compete agreements.
He has focused heavily on supporting American manufacturing and American-made products, initiating new standards that would require all building materials used in federal infrastructure projects to be made domestically: Buy American has been the law of the land since 1933. But for too long, previous administrations, Democratic and Republican, have fought to circumvent it,” he said. “No more.”
Biden also devoted a significant portion of his speech to another issue clearly intended to appeal to ordinary Americans. (A new Washington Post-ABC News poll suggests that goal has been a struggle for the president, despite the legislation he signed.), ban high ticket fees for concerts and events, and prevent media companies from to charge hundreds of dollars to customers who switch services.
“Americans are tired of being played for suckers,” Biden said. “Pass the Junk Fee Prevention Act to stop companies ripping us off.
Biden has addressed many of these issues before, but you’re starting to see the beginnings of a 2024 stump speech.
It’s been 14 years since a Republican member of Congress seemed to cross a threshold by shouting “You’re lying” at Barack Obama during his speech to Congress. Tuesday’s speech marked the continuing trend of partisan uproar over what was once a much more sedate affair.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), perhaps predictably, repeated Rep. Joe Wilson’s (RS.C.) outburst from 2009 when Biden brought up Medicare and security social. (It should be noted that Biden qualified his comments about Republican support for Scott’s plan by emphasizing, “I’m not saying that’s a majority,” but he was mocked anyway. McCarthy shook his head as he sat behind Biden.)
Biden responded to the mockery by suggesting it was a big moment with Republicans laughing so hard at the idea that they would target rights: “I’m glad to see — you know, I like the conversion.”
Republicans also objected to his comments on other issues, including gun control and the border. And the latter case elicited a notable response from McCarthy: As he sat stone-faced for much of the speech, GOP mockery drew a demonstrative wink from the Speaker of the House, who made shut up his conference.
Earlier Tuesday, McCarthy promised no “childish” games, specifically quoting then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) as tearing up a copy of Trump’s speech after the state of the Union of 2020.