1. A two-part theme, with some harsh words sprinkled in.
The last time Biden gave a major speech was in September, when he used a prime-time address to offer some harsh words about Republican efforts to overturn the 2020 election, saying what he “ MAGA Republicans” say their efforts are at risk. to democracy.
Tuesday’s speech was overwhelmingly optimistic, though it included some tense moments. And despite what may be an adventurous 2024 ahead, Biden clearly decided to preach big about the bilateral relationship.
At the start of his speech, he singled out Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as both House speaker and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) longest-serving Senate leader in history. He nodded to accept the new status.
He portrayed his first two years as a surprise win for bipartisanship, saying he had doubts about the two sides’ ability to come together on issues like infrastructure and toxic incinerators. Disproved the doubts.
“For my Republican friends, if we can work together in the last Congress, there’s no reason. Can’t work together and get consensus on important things even in this Congress,” Biden said.
Biden focused in particular on the infrastructure law, which won key GOP votes in the Senate — and which came with some softening. (There were earlier moments, too — like when Biden congratulated McConnell with praise from Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) for extending his majority.)
“I want to thank my Republican friends who voted for the legislation, and my Republican friends who voted against it,” Biden said. “I’m still asked to fund projects in these districts. But don’t worry. I promised to be president of all Americans.
And of course it wasn’t all love in the building. Biden offered some tough lines on the upcoming debt ceiling debate, drawing derision from Republicans for pointing to higher deficits under Donald Trump and accusing him of trying to hold them hostage.
“Under the previous administration, America’s deficits increased for four years in a row,” Biden said. “Because of those record deficits, no president has increased the national debt more than my predecessor in four years.”
He added, amid some GOP derision:[Republicans] Raised debt limit three times without pre-conditions or crisis.
Republicans singled out Biden specifically, pointing to a plan by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) to end all federal programs after five years and force them to reauthorize them. , which Democrats argued could apply to popular entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. The GOP has largely abandoned Scott’s plan, and many prominent Republicans have insisted they will not cut Social Security and Medicare.
McCarthy said before the speech that he asked Biden not to use phrases he had used in the past, such as “extreme MAGA Republicans.” Biden did not use such a phrase on Tuesday.
2. A preview of 2024 messaging
Biden’s dig at Trump’s deficit wasn’t the only indication of the upcoming presidential race. He also tailored his speech largely to blue-collar voters.
He labeled “Big Oil” for making record profits when gas prices were at record highs, “Big Pharma” for drug prices and “Big Tech” for collecting too much personal information, especially about children. in regards to. He also said he would prohibit companies from making workers sign non-compete agreements.
He focused heavily on supporting American manufacturing and American-made products, introducing new standards that would require all construction materials used in federal infrastructure projects to be made locally: “Buy American “It’s been the law of the land since 1933. But for too long, past administrations, Democrat and Republican, have fought to get around it,” he said. “Not anymore.”
Biden also devoted a large portion of his speech to another issue aimed at appealing to everyday Americans. (A NewWashington Post-ABC News poll shows that goal has been a struggle for the president, even though he has signed the legislation.) He praised the Junk Fee Prevention Act, which airlines Will crack down on things like charging fees to sit with families. , ban high ticket fees for concerts and events, and prevent media companies from charging hundreds of dollars to customers who switch services.
“Americans are tired of playing for suckers,” Biden said. “Pass the Junk Fee Prevention Act so companies stop ripping us off.”
Biden has touched on many of these issues before, but you start to see the beginnings of a 2024 stump speech.
It’s been 14 years since a Republican member of Congress appeared to cross a line when he shouted “you lie” at Barack Obama during an address to Congress. Tuesday’s speech marked a continued trend toward partisan turmoil in what was once a more stable affair.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), perhaps predictably, from 2009 to Rep. Joe Wilson’s (R.S.C.) outrage echoed when Biden brought up Medicare and Social Security. (It’s worth noting that Biden qualified his comments about Republican support for Scott’s plan by insisting, “I’m not saying it’s a majority,” but was mocked anyway. (McCarthy shook his head as he sat behind Biden.)
Biden responded to the jibe by suggesting it was a pivotal moment with Republicans scoffing at the idea that they would target the right: “I’m glad to see — you know, I enjoy the change. I enjoy it.”
Republicans also took exception to his comments on other issues, including gun control and the border. And the latter example elicited a remarkable response from McCarthy: While he sat stony-faced for most of the speech, GOP jocks elicited a demonstrative wink from the House speaker, who gave his Aborted the conference.
McCarthy didn’t promise “childish” games earlier Tuesday, especially when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tore up a copy of Trump’s speech after the 2020 State of the Union speech. Reference was given.
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