State of the Union: Biden touts economic progress as Republicans get out of hand

Washington DC - President Joe Biden stressed the importance of bipartisanship and touted US economic progress in his second State of the Union address, which was not without its moments of controversy.

President Joe Biden talks about passing an assault weapons ban as he delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.
President Joe Biden talks about passing an assault weapons ban as he delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.  © Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS

While Biden gave his first State of the Union before a Democratic-controlled House and Senate, he was speaking on Tuesday before a divided Congress.

Acknowledging this fact, Biden opened his remarks by emphasizing the importance of bipartisan cooperation to deliver for the American people.

"You know, we're often told that Democrats and Republicans can't work together," the president said. "But over the past two years, we proved the cynics and naysayers wrong."

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"Yes, we disagreed plenty. And yes, there were times when Democrats went alone," he admitted. "But time and again, Democrats and Republicans came together."

Biden cited the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and reforms to the Electoral Count Act as examples of bipartisan successes in the previous Congress, adding that he hopes such collaboration can continue in the second half of his term.

But some of the raucous responses from Republicans later in the address point toward an uphill battle for the president and his party.

Biden stresses economic progress in State of the Union speech

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress as Vice President Kamala Harris applauds.
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress as Vice President Kamala Harris applauds.  © Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS

Biden spent a large chunk of his speech highlighting the economic progress in the country under his presidency, which he said has focused on strengthening the middle class.

"I stand here tonight, after we have 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, because of you all, because of the American people," Biden said.

The president also said his administration has prioritized manufacturing in the US, mentioning the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act to boost the domestic production of computer chips.

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He also touted new infrastructure projects, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the record number of small businesses established since 2021 – all achievements won under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic.

Nevertheless, the president acknowledged there is a long way to go to create an economy that works for all, including making sure large corporations and the ultra-wealthy are paying their fair share in taxes.

"We've got to finish the job," Biden said in a refrain repeated 12 times throughout his remarks.

Fault lines emerge in Biden's State of the Union

Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene yells at President Joe Biden as he delivers his State of the Union address.
Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene yells at President Joe Biden as he delivers his State of the Union address.  © REUTERS

While Biden tried to paint a rosy picture of bipartisanship, some of the usual suspects in the Republican Party illustrated a very different reality.

Fault lines began to emerge as Biden mentioned key aspects of his agenda in the coming two years, including passage of a federal assault weapons ban. As Democratic lawmakers rose in applause, many Republicans remained seated with stony expressions on their faces.

But things reached a low point when Biden mentioned some Republicans' plan to slash social security.

"Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans, some Republicans, want Medicare and Social Security to sunset," the president said, at which point several GOP representatives, including Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, stood up to yell at the president, calling him a "liar."

"Anybody who doubts it, contact my office," Biden responded. "I'll give you a copy of the proposal."

Another point of contention came when Biden mentioned the opioid crisis and the need to rein in illegal smuggling of the deadly drug fentanyl.

"It’s your fault!" one GOP congressman could be heard yelling as Biden lamented the more than 70,000 fentanyl-related deaths that occur in the US each year. Republicans have claimed Biden's draconian border policies are not strict enough to prevent the drug's entry into the country.

At points throughout the address, things got so out of hand that even House Speaker Kevin McCarthy shushed and cast disapproving looks at some of his unrulier colleagues.

If Republicans' responses are any indicator, "finishing the job" is going to be anything but easy in the divided Congress.

Cover photo: Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS

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