On February 7, 2023, President Joe Biden attended the nation’s Capitol building to deliver his annual State of the Union address to Congress.
All members of the House of Representatives and the Senate were in attendance, Republicans and Democrats alike, but so were the Supreme Court justices of present and past, military officers and the odd celebrity in the balcony such as U2’s Bono.
The State of the Union is an annual address given by the President of the United States during a joint session of Congress, where they typically report on the current nature of the country in areas such as the economy and national security and state what their legislative and national priorities are for the upcoming year.
In his second State of the Union speech so far, Biden presented messages of remarkable optimism, which were met with customary hostility from the Republican side.
But what were the main takeaways from it? And what did politicians on both sides of the partisan line have to say?
Biden began by congratulating top members of the chambers, such as the new House speaker Kevin McCarthy, Hakeem Jeffries, the first African American minority leader, and Nancy Pelosi for her time as House Speaker.
The state of the economy, which has been in peril and at the forefront of Americans’ lives for months, was highlighted quickly.
“Two years ago, the economy was reeling. I stand here tonight after we created with the help of many people in this room. 12 million new jobs. More jobs created in two years than any president has created in four years.”
Biden dwelled slightly on the distressing COVID-19 pandemic, discussing its impact on the country’s businesses and schools and how “we were robbed of so much”, making a powerful claim that “Covid no longer controls our lives.”
“We are not finished yet by any stretch, but unemployment is at a 50-year low. Near-record unemployment.”
“Near-record unemployment for Black and Hispanic workers. We have also created 800,000 good manufacturing jobs, the fastest growth in 40 years.”
Despite the evident divide between Republicans and Democrats, he touts the number of times the politicians have been able to put that aside and pass critical legislation.
“I signed over 300 bipartisan pieces of legislation since becoming president. The Electoral Count Reform Act. The Respect to Marry Act. To my Republican friends, we came to work together last Congress. There is no reason we cannot work together in this Congress as well.”
During the address, Biden called for a ban on assault weapons.
“Ban assault weapons now, once and for all. We did it before. I led the fight to ban them in 1994. In the 10 years the ban was law, mass shootings went down. After we let it expire in a Republican administration, mass shootings tripled. Let’s finish the job and ban these assault weapons,” Biden said.
The Chinese spy balloon incident
Joe Biden also used a small portion of his time to discuss US-China relations, after US military fighter jets shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon in early February.
“I am committed to working with China where we can advance American interests and benefit the world advance — but make no mistake about it, as we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty we will act to protect our country — and we did.”
Biden proved he still has it
The fact that Biden is the oldest residing president is no secret, at 80 years old he is showing the nation that he is capable of remaining in power.
He energised his party within the chamber, but he also riled the Republican party in the process.
Although he hasn’t stated he is running for a second term, it’s more than likely he will do so, meaning he will be 86 if he wins it.
Many politicians and voters are sceptical of his competence, but he proved himself still worthy of their vote.
Republican’s behaviour during the speech
Republicans are notoriously known for heckling the President during the State of the Union speech, and this one was no different.
There was general peace for the first 45 minutes of the speech, but when Joe Biden started accusing Republicans of wanting to make cuts to medicare and social security, a skilful tactic on his part to elicit a response, members began yelling towards the President.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, known for her extremist views, repeatedly yelled at Joe Biden during his speech.
She yelled “Liar” when Biden claimed Republicans wanted cuts to medicare and social security.
She also decided to stay seated when Biden announced the presence of Tyre Nichols’ parents and the Ukraine ambassador, a bold and scandalous choice, especially when the entire chamber stands to show their respect and gratitude.
Additionally, Senator Mitt Romney was discovered to have told Representative George Santos that he “doesn’t belong in Congress”, after Santos has been involved in numerous scandals over the past few weeks in regards to his legitimacy and lies during the Midterm election 2022.
The Republican Rebuttal
Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivered the GOP response to the speech, boldly stating that “The choice is between normal or crazy.”
She claims the current administration has “been hijacked by the radical left”.
Sanders claimed the Biden administration has made calls to “Defund the Police”, which is far from the truth.
Although some Democrats and Liberals alike have made calls for a reformation of the current Police policies, Biden and senior Democrats have made no calls to do so. They have even rejected moves to “defund the police”.
Further attacking him, Sanders stated that: “President Biden is unwilling to defend our border, defend our skies and defend our people. He is simply unfit to serve as commander-in-chief”.
“From out-of-control inflation and violent crime to the dangerous border crisis and threat from China. Biden and the Democrats have failed you. They know it and you know it. And it is time for a change.”
One clear thing was that Biden continuously touted his administration’s success during the State of the Union 2023.
Biden spent the most time discussing Healthcare and the economy, central issues for the lives of Americans.
According to a CNN poll conducted by SSRS, 72% of Americans had a positive reaction to his speech, with around 34% reacting very positively.
Concluding his speech, Biden exclaims that “the state of the union is strong”, but whether that is true or not is up to interpretation.
Featured Image Credit: @WhiteHouse / Twitter