Joe Biden Jousts With Republicans, Vows Crackdown on Concert Ticket Fees in State of the Union Most Popular Must Read Sign Up for Variety Newsletters More From Our Brands

President Biden joked with House Republicans and challenged them to work on a bipartisan “unity” agenda in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

The president took a handful of small-bore policy measures — like tackling credit card fees and capping concert ticket surcharges — and engaged in a back-and-forth with Republicans over social safety net programs.

“Some of my Republican friends want to hold the economy hostage until I agree to their economic plans,” Biden said. “All of you at home should know what their plans are.”

Republicans across the aisle erupted in boos when the president said some Republicans wanted to cut Social Security and Medicare. Biden engaged in a back-and-forth, as some members could be heard calling out “liar.”

“If anybody tries to cut Social Security — which apparently nobody is going to do,” Biden said, breaking away from his prepared remarks. “And if anyone tries to cut Medicare, I will stop it.”

The speech took on a tumultuous atmosphere at times, as Republicans expressed their disagreement by shaking their heads or objecting.

He laughed when Biden said he encouraged investment in oil production because it would be needed for at least another decade. He also objected loudly when Biden blamed former President Donald Trump for the dramatic increase in the national debt.

The president highlighted the legislative achievements of his first two years in office, including an infrastructure bill, efforts to combat climate change, lowering the cost of some prescription drugs and a bill to expand domestic production of semiconductor chips.

He also offered a handful of suggestions for the coming year, including efforts to expand antitrust powers and advance tech platforms.

Biden also tried to capitalize on the outrage against Ticketmaster, highlighting a proposal to ban “junk fees” on tickets to entertainment venues and “resort fees” on hotel rooms.

“The idea that cable Internet and cell phone companies can charge you $200 or more if you decide to switch to another provider — give me pause,” Biden said. “We can withhold service fees on tickets for concerts and sporting events and disclose all fees to companies in advance.”

He also highlighted efforts to eliminate non-compete clauses, which employers use to prevent their workforce from leaving for rival firms.

Biden began his speech by congratulating new Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy. But in his speech he also warned of the consequences of a showdown over the debt ceiling and challenged the Republican Congress to be forthright about its budget agenda.

Biden also urged Congress to pass a police reform bill, which would include the parents of Tyr Nichols, a black man who was killed by Memphis police officers last month.

“What happened to the tire in Memphis happens often,” he said. “We have to do better.”

He noted the recent mass shooting at a dance studio in Monterey Park, California, and called for a ban on assault weapons. He also noted former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, who was attacked with a hammer in his San Francisco home. He linked the attack to the attack on the Capitol on January 6 and said it was a sign of a broader attack on democracy.

“We must all speak up,” he said. Political violence has no place in America.

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