President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech started with a lighthearted gesture of bipartisan goodwill, but that evaporated as he repeatedly made statements that irked the Republican side of the aisle.
His Feb. 7 speech marked the first time that the Democrat president, in office since 2021, faced a Republican-controlled House of Representatives as he gave his annual report to the nation.
Biden began by congratulating Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R- Calif.) for being chosen as Speaker of the House, then joked, off-script: “Mr. Speaker, I don’t want to ruin your reputation, but I look forward to working with you.”
And, Biden said, during the past couple of years, Democrats and Republicans have shown they can work together, noting they approved a “once-in-a-generation infrastructure law, building bridges connecting our nation and our people.”
Jeers and Cheers
But Biden ran afoul of the GOP several times during his 75-minute speech, especially when he accused Republicans of wanting to “sunset” Medicare and Social Security. As Republicans booed and accused him of lying about that, Biden said, “I’m not saying it’s the majority.”
Inexplicably, Biden responded, “I enjoy conversion.” After going back and forth with Republican lawmakers who were shouting from their seats, Biden backed away from the confrontation, saying, “So folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off, off the books now.”
Applause and cheers followed. But Biden followed up with a threat: If anyone tries to cut those programs, “I’ll veto it,” he said.
He also threatened to veto any anti-abortion law that Congress might pass.
Biden attempted to urge the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate to “come together” on immigration. “Make it a bipartisan issue once again,” he said.
But the GOP side of the chamber again erupted with heckling as Biden claimed he was trying to secure the U.S.-Mexico border—a sore point with Republicans who have criticized him for allowing illegal immigrants to pour into America.
“We now have a record number of personnel working to secure the border,” Biden said. “American border problems won’t be fixed until Congress acts.”
He urged them to “at least pass my plan to provide the equipment and officers to secure the border.”
Another point of contention: Biden recognized a parent who had lost his daughter to a fentanyl overdose and decried the fact that 70,000 deaths from that drug have plagued the United States. Some Republicans shouted their disapproval of Biden; many have publicly criticized him for failing to stop the tide of fentanyl from coming from Mexico into the United States.
McCarthy remained fairly stoic throughout the speech, even when his fellow Republicans made their opposition to Biden clear. He applauded politely several times. Seated next to McCarthy, Vice President Kamala Harris frequently nodded in agreement as Biden spoke.
One of the few unifying moments of the evening came when Biden recognized two guests, RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, the mother and stepfather of Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old black man whom police beat to death in Memphis, Tennessee, in January.
Everyone rose to their feet and applauded to show respect for the couple and the tragedy they have endured.
Biden said that Nichols’s mother told him that she hoped something good could come of her son’s death. The president seized the moment. He asked Congress to pass a police reform bill.
But then Biden turned around and used the Nichols incident to decry how “black and brown” people must talk to their children about being cautious around police–even though the officers accused in Nichols’s death are also black.
He gave a disclaimer, though, which was greeted with applause: “I know most cops and their families are good, decent honorable people–the vast majority.”
Spy Balloon Not Mentioned
Repeatedly, Biden said he wanted to “finish the job,” which seemed to hint that he will run for re-election. Still, he didn’t mention the upcoming 2024 presidential race.
He also made no direct mention of China’s spy balloon, which drifted across U.S. airspace for days before it was shot down. Many criticized the administration’s failure to act sooner.
Biden did make a passing reference to the incident by stating, “As we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country. And we did.” He said little else about China.
Another topic that looms large but received little notice from Biden—the national debt.
Last month, two dozen GOP Senators wrote a letter warning Biden that they would oppose raising the national debt limit unless he cuts spending and “brings fiscal sanity back to Washington.” America is now $31 trillion in debt, an amount that exceeds the national economy.
Union is ‘Strong’
Biden wrapped up his speech by attempting to strike an optimistic note.
“My fellow Americans, we meet tonight in an inflection point, one of those moments that only a few generations ever face,” he said. “The direction we now take is going to decide the course of this nation for decades to come … We have to see each other not as enemies but as fellow Americans.”
He said Americans are “good people” and our nation is the only one in the world that is “built on an idea.”
“We’re the only nation based on the idea that all of us, every one of us, is created equal,” Biden said.
Then he declared: “Because the soul of this nation is strong, because the backbone…of this nation is strong because the people of this nation are strong, the state of the union is strong.”
Finally, Biden made one last attempt to strike the unifying chord that so many had expected from this speech, stating, “We’re the United States of America, and there’s nothing beyond our capacity to do it together.”
From The Epoch Times