Feb 7, 2023
Here Are the Key Takeaways From Biden’s State of the Union Speech
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden’s address to Congress foreshadowed his 2024 stump speech, if as expected he runs for a second term — but at times it was almost drowned out by the Republican heckling.
A spirited Biden on Tuesday highlighted accomplishments on infrastructure, climate and consumer protections in his first two years in the White House. But an equally spirited GOP side interrupted him over entitlement spending, the border and other issues, putting the tensions in a divided government on live television.
Here are five main takeaways from Biden’s speech to the joint session:
Biden lured Republicans into a messy shouting match, when he said the GOP was calling for cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and others yelled “Liar!” while some booed and waved their fingers at the president when he said they wanted the cuts to the popular programs as a demand of raising the debt ceiling. Speaker Kevin McCarthy appeared to shush his colleagues at points when they shouted.
“As we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now,” Biden said. “We got unanimity!” Republicans stood and applauded.
Tough on China
Biden took a tough rhetorical line on China, after Beijing sparked a political and diplomatic row with a spy balloon that traversed the US before being shot down.
“No mistake about it: As we made clear last week, if China’s threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country,” Biden said.
Biden also said Chinese President Xi Jinping is in an unenviable position, arguing his country has been weakened as it grapples with a struggling economy.
“Name me a world leader who’d change places with Xi Jinping — name me one, name me one,” he said.
Clean Energy Confession
Biden touted his clean-energy initiatives, warning that climate change poses an “existential threat” to the US. But he drew laughter from Republicans when he conceded that “we are going to need oil for at least another decade” as the country transitions to other energy sources.
That demonstrates the difficulty Democrats face as they seek to promote alternative energy sources, while acknowledging the reality that fossil fuels will remain a key source of energy, perhaps for more than a decade.
Populist Pitch for 2024
Biden couched the accomplishments of his first two years in populist terms. He spent the first 20 minutes touting efforts to lower unemployment, bring back American manufacturing, and fix the nation’s infrastructure — nodding to laws Republicans helped him pass to achieve those goals.
He also attacked pharmaceutical and oil companies, and called for higher taxes on billionaires and stock buybacks. He also called for antitrust legislation to crack down on big tech companies.
Taken together, the remarks formed the beginnings of a stump speech as Biden gears up to launch his expected reelection bid. His refrain of “Finish the job!” smacked of a campaign slogan.
Biden urged lawmakers to pass a pared-down package of changes to immigration law, as his administration continues to grapple with historic numbers of migrants crossing the southern US border.
He called on Congress to approve more funding for officers and equipment to “secure the border” and a citizenship path for undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, known as Dreamers, as well as farm workers, essential workers and migrants on temporary status.
This also elicited shouts from Republicans who yelled at Biden to “secure the border” and “it’s your fault,” when Biden mentioned fentanyl coming across the border.
Biden’s narrower proposal is an acknowledgment of the divided nature of Congress, where Republicans oppose the president’s policies, saying they have encouraged migrants to cross into the US.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.