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politicsClosed Feb 8, 2023

Biden’s State of the Union Address Updates and Analysis

  • Biden to vow he won’t let US default over debt limit
  • President blames inflation on pandemic, Ukraine war
  • He pivots between partisan jabs, consensus call before Congress
  • State of the Union speech test-drives Biden’s 2024 themes
Thanks for joining us. Here are five key takeaways from US President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday.
  • The “Liar” Moment: Unsurprisingly, the fight over the debt limit gave off some of the biggest sparks of the night. Some Republicans called Biden a liar when he said some of them want to cut Social Security and Medicare. That rancorous moment led to a sort of public negotiation ending with everyone standing and clapping for not cutting those programs. Bottom line: Cutting programs for seniors really is off the table in the debt limit talks. The budget section of the speech included a lot of needling of Republicans as backers of corporations and billionaires, whom Biden proposed taxing to help reduce the deficit by $2 trillion. But House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has already dismissed tax hikes. In some ways, this was the starting gun on a months-long fight over managing the nation’s finances, with a shrinking opportunity for negotiations.
  • McCarthy was mostly respectful but appeared alternately sleepy, bored and frustrated. There were few standout moments pointing to likely bipartisan legislation, but there were strong moments of comity on policing, cancer research and taking on China. That leaves at least a chance for some legislation.
  • While McCarthy was respectful, many in his conference were not, shouting and jeering at Biden at times, including on immigration and blaming him for the fentanyl crisis. When Biden at the end pronounced the state of the union strong, McCarthy offered a few tentative claps, but many in his own conference were far less charitable. It’s a sign of just how restive McCarthy’s slim majority is, a month after he endured a weeklong effort to win the speaker’s gavel.
  • Biden didn’t provide fodder tonight for those who might say he’s too old to run for a second term. There were no major stumbles in his speech, and his strong and vigorous delivery often drew on his strength for showing empathy.
  • Biden also played to populist themes ahead of a potential 2024 run, as someone fighting for middle class benefits and against corporations gouging them with junk fees and high drug prices while not paying their fair share of taxes. On energy, Biden drew laughter from Republicans when he said we will need oil and gas for at least another decade -- yet another sign of the schism between the parties over fossil fuels.