President Joe Biden pitched his “unity agenda” Tuesday in his 2023 State of the Union address, aimed at finding common ground in the fight against cancer, the opioid epidemic and police brutality.
But he also stood firm in support for the larger Democratic Party agenda, expressing strong support for the social safety net, LGBTQ rights, and abortion, among other things.
Biden declared that the U.S. has bounced back from the global Covid-19 pandemic and from the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the nation’s Capitol.
“We are the only country that has emerged from every crisis we’ve ever faced stronger than when we entered it,” Biden said.
After briefly mentioning that American democracy was “bruised” by the Jan. 6 violence, Biden said Americans are committed to protecting it.
“Our democracy remains unbound and unbroken,” Biden said. “With democracy, everything is possible. Without it, nothing is.”
Biden said the two major parties need to work together, and several times thanked “my Republican friends” for working with him on the 300 bi-partisan bills he passed in his two years in office.
That didn’t stop some Republicans from heckling the president when he discussed raising the debt ceiling on the federal government and noted how much federal debt increased under the Donald Trump presidency.
There were several instances of Republicans shouting “border, border, border,” when Biden discussed fentanyl and the opioid crisis.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Democratic president giving a SOTU speech without at least one petulant disruption by a member of the Republican Party, and this time it came courtesy of Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, R-Georgia. Mid-way through, Biden accurately described the plans, articulated by several Republicans (regardless of denials to the contrary), to use the debt ceiling fight to force Democrats to accept deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare, among other popular programs.
One proposal mentioned by Biden specifically, which was devised by Senator Rick Scott, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, calls for those programs to be sunsetted every 5 years — meaning, if congress didn’t renew them they would die. That proposal — indeed any attempt to cut benefits — are extremely unpopular, which is why GOP Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy has been desperately urging Republicans to stop talking about it.
Around this point in Biden’s speecg, Greene cupped her mouth and yelled “Liar!”
Biden smiled and told the audience, “anyone who doubts it, contact my office, I’ll give you a copy of the proposal.” This led to a highly unusual moment for a State of the Union speech.
About Social Security and Medicare, Biden vowed, “I will not allow them to be taken away.” Of course Republicans booed Biden’s (again, very accurate, backed by considerable evidence) description, leading Biden to declare, “So we all agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the table.” This resulted in a standing ovation from both sides of the political aisle.
“Let’s sit down together,” he said.
Continuing on domestic economics, Biden bluntly stated that “the tax system is not fair,” referring to top corporations using loopholes to get out of paying billions of dollars in taxes. Biden said the government needs to crack down on “wealthy tax cheats,” and that a billionaire should not pay a lower rate than a school teacher.
Internationally, Biden restated his firm stance to support Ukraine in defending itself from Russia and Vladimir Putin, saying that the Russian invasion raised the basic questions of what America stands for in the world.
“Will we stand for the most basic of principles? Will we stand for democracy? Yes we would and we did,” he said.
To compete in the world, Biden said the U.S. needs to invest more into the educational system.
“Any nation that out-educates us is going to out-compete us,” he said. “We want to have the best-educated workforce.”
Biden touted the unemployment rate as the lowest in decades, and said both parties need to make sure that the U.S. workforce has good jobs in this country, and stop the loss of manufacturing to other countries.
“We’re going to make sure that the supply chain for America begins in America,” he said, noting the special importance of U.S. dominance in the computer chip industry.
And, among other things, the President also vowed to veto any attempt by Republicans to ban abortion nationwide. “Make no mistake; if Congress passes a national abortion ban, I will veto it,” he said.
Biden also reiterated his support for LGBTQ people, specifically transgender people.
Let’s also pass the bipartisan Equality Act to ensure LGBTQ Americans, especially transgender young people, can live with safety and dignity. Our strength is not just the example of our power, but the power of our example. Let’s remember the world is watching,” He said.