WASHINGTON — In his State of the Union speech, President Joe Biden boasted about his first two years and road-tested populist re-election themes, promising to “finish the job” on what he dubbed a “blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America.”
Biden hasn’t formally announced his bid for re-election, but it is widely expected, and some lawmakers in the audience saw the speech as something of a soft launch.
Here are four key takeaways from Biden’s speech.
Bragging about his first two years
Biden boasted about the host of legislation the Democratic-controlled Congress passed in his first two years as president. He highlighted measures to create a “safer Europe” in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, his “once-in-a-generation infrastructure law,” a measure to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits, efforts to renew the Violence Against Women Act, an election overhaul and the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages.
Sitting behind Biden was Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., expressionless for much of the speech. He voted against nearly all of Biden’s legislative pursuits over the last two years in his bid to seize the House.
Populist re-election themes
Biden also boasted about record low unemployment, declining inflation and rising take-home pay.
“And folks, we’re just getting started. We’re just getting started,” he said. “We’re not finished yet by any stretch of the imagination.
“Let’s finish the job,” he said. “There’s more to do.”
He said America is “beginning to restore the dignity of work.”
He said “too many people have been left behind and treated like they’re invisible.” He repeatedly addressed “folks” watching at home who might feel ignored. “I have your back,” he told them.
Throughout his address, Biden highlighted populist themes with calls for action to boost domestic manufacturing, cap insulin at $35, add a minimum tax on billionaires, quadruple the tax on stock buybacks and pass a bill to prevent “junk fees” and hidden surcharges, like surprise hotel resort fees.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said Biden “certainly laid out his vision for not just the remainder of the term, but a plan for four years,” calling it a “high-energy speech.”
Biden continually took swipes at GOP lawmakers in the audience, including calling out Republicans who opposed the infrastructure law.
“I want to thank my Republican friends who voted for the law. And my Republican friends who voted against it. as well. I still get asked to fund the projects in those districts. as well,” he said. “But don’t worry. I promised I’d be a president for all Americans. We’ll fund these projects. And I’ll see you at the groundbreaking.”
McCarthy, who joined the vast majority of House Republicans in opposing the law, sat and looked on blankly.
Later, Biden mocked Republicans who want to repeal his Inflation Reduction Act, which empowers Medicare to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry and was passed solely with Democratic support.
“As my football coach used to say: Lots of luck in your senior year,” he quipped.
“Make no mistake, if you try anything to raise the cost of prescription drugs, I will veto it,” he said, to raucous Democratic applause.
‘Liar!’ GOP jeer Bidens
Republicans repeatedly heckled and booed Biden — particularly when he said, “Some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset.” McCarthy shook his head. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., loudly and repeatedly yelled, “Liar!”
“I’m not saying it’s a majority of you,” he said. “I’m politely not naming them, but it’s being proposed by some of you.”
He was referring to a plan released last year by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., that would sunset all federal laws after five years unless Congress voted to prolong them. Democrats seized on it to argue that such a plan would sunset Medicare and Social Security.
Facing the jeers and boos, Biden pivoted. “As we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right? They’re not to be touched?” Applause broke out in the chamber. “All right! We got unanimity!” he said.
Scott responded to Biden, “He’s a liar,” and added that he wasn’t surprised to hear Biden attack his plan. “He’s been lying about me for a year,” Scott added. “It doesn’t resonate.”
Other Republicans tweeted their displeasure at the president.
Later, as Biden spoke about immigration, a lawmaker yelled: “Secure the border!” Others called for order in the chamber.
After the speech, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said: “It was political. I thought it was pretty divisive.”