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State of the Union takeaways: Biden comes out swinging in a raucous, combative speech despite pleas for bipartisanship

President Joe Biden gestures as he delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington, as Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California, watch.President Joe Biden gestures as he delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington, as Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California, watch.

Jacquelyn Martin, Pool/AP

  • Biden addressed the nation Tuesday, laying out his vision and touting his accomplishments.
  • Republicans heckled him several times throughout his remarks. 
  • From bipartisan appeals to surprising combativeness, here are the big takeaways from the speech.

President Joe Biden delivered his 2023 State of the Union Address on Tuesday, amid pessimistic feelings about the US and polling from voters saying they’re reluctant to see him run for reelection. 

Yet the president struck an optimistic tone as he prepared to preside over a divided government for the first time during his presidency. He urged Congress to get behind him to achieve bipartisan victories, and painted a picture of a country still on the comeback. 

Here are Insider’s four biggest takeaways from the president’s annual address to Congress: 

First Lady Jill Biden arrives to the House Chamber for President Joe Biden's State of the Union address in the U.S. Capitol on February 07, 2023 in Washington, DC. The speech marks Biden's first address to the new Republican-controlled House.First Lady Jill Biden arrives to the House Chamber for President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address in the U.S. Capitol on February 07, 2023 in Washington, DC. The speech marks Biden’s first address to the new Republican-controlled House.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

He tried to appeal to bipartisanship 

Biden is beginning this year with a divided government — but he struck a unifying tone as he opened Tuesday evening’s speech. He noted that during the first half of his term, he signed more than 300 bipartisan measures into law, including sending defense funding to Ukraine, spending on infrastructure, and codifying same-sex marriage. 

“If we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together in this Congress as well,” he said, adding that his “vision” was to “unite the country.” 

Before diving into the list of bipartisan accomplishments, though, Biden began by congratulating House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

“I don’t want to ruin your reputation, but I look forward to working with you,” Biden said to McCarthy. The comments, slightly adlibbed from his prepared remarks, were met with laughs from the audience. A call for increased funding for cancer research appeared to receive bipartisan support in the chamber. 

A fashion statement appeared to top it all off. In a symbolic appeal to bipartisanship, First Lady Jill Biden wore purple— the color that results from combining blue and red. 

Biden did nimble crowd work when Republicans heckled him 

While Republicans appeared to exchange some pleasantries with the president when he entered the chamber, some members had vocal outbursts throughout Biden’s speech. This included Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia who called him a “liar.” 

These unscripted moments happened much more frequently than in past State of the Union Addresses, including under past presidents. 

But Biden engaged Republicans instead of ignoring them.

When Biden accused Republicans of wanting to cut popular Medicare and Social Security programs, he was met with shouts from Republicans sitting in the audience. There was a chaotic back and forth, until Biden said, “Let’s all agree let’s stand up for seniors.” McCarthy stood to clap behind him.

“So folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare off the books now, right?” Biden quipped, in a departure from his prepared remarks.

Republicans geared up for battle ahead of his speech, going on a media circuit to criticize his record. “They’re reacting obviously to open borders, rampant crime, inflation through the roof and the balloon,” McConnell told the Guy Benson Show on Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump shared his thoughts about Biden’s speech on his social media platform, Truth Social. Biden stayed away from Trump for most of his speech other than referring to January 6, in which he referred to Trump as “an assailant” who “unleashed violence.” 

“As Americans listen to President Biden, I am confident they will see the glaring contrast between Democratic unity on the one hand, and Republican chaos on the other,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday during a speech on the Senate floor. 

President Joe Biden gestures toward first lady Jill Biden as he delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on February 7, 2023 in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. The speech marks Biden's first address to the new Republican-controlled House.President Joe Biden gestures toward first lady Jill Biden as he delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on February 7, 2023 in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. The speech marks Biden’s first address to the new Republican-controlled House.

Jacquelyn Martin-Pool/Getty Images

He laid out his attack lines for 2024  

Biden’s remarks weren’t all about working together. He warned Republicans he would veto attempts to repeal his signature Inflation Reduction Act, with includes provisions to lower the prices of some prescription drugs. The provisions won’t happen for years — but announcements about lower prices for expensive medicines will come just ahead of the 2024 election. 

In addition to attacking Republicans on Social Security and Medicare cuts, Biden opened up several other lines of attack.

The president used the same attack line during the 2022 midterms and is set to home in on the message this week during a trip to Tampa, Florida. He hasn’t yet formally declared he is running for reelection but has said he intends to run.

He didn’t mention certain promises he made before he was elected 

When Biden ran for president in 2020, he promised to lower Medicare’s eligibility from 65 to 60 and to create a “public option” that would allow people to choose between a private health insurance plan and one that is run by the government. On Tuesday, he did not press for the passage of these measures. 

That isn’t to say that he didn’t raise any of the promises he made in 2020. Biden pressed Congress to “finish the job.” These included funding for people with disabilities to receive home care, funding for universal preschool, and mandating universal paid family leave. 

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