President Biden urged unity during his State of the Union address on Tuesday, but there was little of that on display in a raucous chamber where the president was heckled by a number of newly empowered House Republicans.
Biden’s speech was a blend of a victory lap over his first two years in office and a pitch to voters about what he would do with six more years if he were re-elected in 2024. The president rattled off a list of bipartisan legislation that he argued had revitalized the economy and shown the government can work for the public, while urging a newly divided Congress to “finish the job.”
“To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together and find consensus on important things in this Congress as well,” Biden said. “I think the people sent us a clear message. Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict, gets us nowhere. And that’s always been my vision of our country, and I know it’s many of yours.”
He touted his work to improve the U.S. economy early in the address, noting that the January jobs report released last week showed unemployment dropped to 3.4 percent and that gas prices are down $1.50 a gallon from their peak.
And, he touted the passage of the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act and the bipartisan infrastructure law, taking a stab at Republicans who voted against the legislation but have celebrated projects it funds.
But even as he urged unity, Biden also put GOP lawmakers on the spot when he suggested that they wanted cuts to Social Security and Medicare, which became an unusual moment of live back-and-forth on the issue that culminated in an apparent agreement.
“Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans — some Republicans want Social Security and Medicare to sunset. I’m not saying it’s the majority,” Biden said.
One Republican – Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, yelled “liar” toward Biden after those remarks, which drew boos and from Republicans in attendance. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) shook his head as he sat next to Vice President Harris behind Biden, for the first time as Speaker of the House.
Updated 11:01 p.m.