Inside The Capitol For The State Of The Union: Under The Hot Lights, Joe Biden Vs. GOP Hecklers Gives A Glimpse Of The Drama To Come

Twenty minutes after ending his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden was still shaking hands in the double doorway of the House chamber, even though many members having already left, much of the room was already cleared and Speaker Kevin McCarthy had already called it a night. 

On TV, commentators and pundits were well into their renderings of what just took place, soon to be followed by a CNN snap poll of what viewers thought.

What was clear was that “the moment” of the speech was Biden’s exchange with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and other members who labeled him a “liar,” outbursts over the president’s claims that some GOPers have sought to cut Social Security and Medicare. Rather than move on, the president engaged with them, and quickly followed up with his own comeback. In the end, members of both parties were on their feet, applauding a commitment to not roll back the entitlement programs. 

Related Story

Marjorie Taylor Greene Screams "Liar" At Joe Biden During SOTU; POTUS Taunts GOP Over Medicare & Social Security Sunset Proposals

It was great theater — inside the chamber and out — and just the type of raucousness that is all but expected in the relentless cycles of polarized politics.

Almost 14 years ago, when President Barack Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress was interrupted by the shout of “you lie” coming from Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), it created a furor over the breach of decorum, and the congressman quickly apologized.

During Biden’s speech on Tuesday, there were several moments like that, and certainly no apology.

“Well, it’s the House. The House is a little cantankerous, but I thought it was fine,” Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), said in an interview afterward. 

Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL) insisted that the interruptions weren’t even “heckling.” 

She said that Biden’s comments on Social Security and Medicare were “completely unfounded,” and “we weren’t going to let that stand.”

“I thought it was very important that we collectively as a body spoke out about that and let him know that we will not tolerate the lies coming out of the administration, particularly when we know that the fear mongering that has played out in years past,” she said. “So I wouldn’t call it heckling. I would call it setting the record straight.” 

Yet the interruptions were not just over that issue, but other moments of the speech, as when Biden talked of banning non-compete clauses (“That’s not true”) and when he addressed the fentanyl crisis (“It’s your fault”).

The House is still tame compared to the raucousness of the British Parliament, as there is still an embrace of the rules of decorum. But the Trump years brought reality show stunts to the SOTU, followed by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s speech-shredding response. More recently, the theatrics of last month’s speaker vote showed that the august traditions of the past are being upstaged by the drama on the floor. Members are ever-more aware that for special events, the chamber is transformed into the fishbowl of a TV studio. On Tuesday night, with the hot lights turned on, as cameras captured some genuine reactions and more than a few of but performative outrage, to use the buzzwords of 2023. 

Unlike most House sessions, where cameras are in stationary positions and controlled by the government, media outlets are allowed in for special events. For the State of the Union, Fox served as the pool network, and the set up included not just cameras positioned around the rectangular chamber, but a boom placed in a corner, giving viewers sweeping views of the members. There’s an effort afoot to give media outlets such access on a regular basis, and it’s perhaps little surprise that one of its champions is Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who thrives on the media exposure.

In the meantime, many members at the State of the Union did their best to stand out, giving the floor a bit of a peacock hue.

In contrast to some of the years of Covid, members dressed colorfully, led by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), wearing a bright yellow, wing-sleeved dress, while Greene appeared in a fur-collared coat, as if she arrived by Duesenberg and walked the red carpet.

As is typical, a number of members arrived early to position themselves on the aisle, better to get a chance to shake Biden’s hand and in full view of the live shots. Among those in the choice spot was Rep. George Santos (R-NY), in mustard yellow tie, who is under continual scrutiny and an apparent ethic investigation for fabricating his background. Although Santos ultimately did not shake Biden’s hand, he did feature prominently in coverage, as reports spread of an exchange he had on the floor with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT). “If he had any shame at all, he wouldn’t be there,” Romney told reporters afterward, referring not just to Santos’ prominent “parading” on the floor, but his very presence in Congress.

Bizarrely enough, the moments on the floor seemed to overshadow the genuine superstar in the room, Bono, one of the guests who sat in the first lady’s section. The U2 lead singer was the focus as Biden briefly mentioned the “advocates and champions” who helped lead PEPFAR, the global fight for HIV/AIDS started by President George W. Bush.

Pelosi drew one of the emotional high points of the evening, as the president introduced him as “the man who bears the scars” of a brutal attack on his home last year, with the conspiracy theorist suspect telling police that he was seeking out his wife, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Paul Pelosi, Biden said, “is as tough and as strong and as resilient as they get.” Sitting in between Bono and the Ukrainian ambassador, Pelosi stood up and waved to the standing ovation on the House floor.

As emotive as the evening was, one thing was not different: Members of the Supreme Court sat, stoned faced, right up in front below the rostrum. That was true even as Biden talked of vetoing any effort to pass a national ban on abortion, following the high court’s decision last year to overturn Roe Vs. Wade.

As Biden embarks on a series of trips to promote his SOTU messaging, House Republicans are launching into a laundry list of Biden investigations, including one on Wednesday focused Twitter’s role in suppressing news of Hunter Biden’s laptop. The potential debt ceiling showdown promises to veer quickly into apocalyptic pronouncements. If Biden does indeed announce a 2022 bid, all his moves will be framed as strategy vs. Donald Trump or other potential GOP challengers.

For their part, House Democrats already are eyeing taking back the majority. Asked about the heckling, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) said, “They don’t count because they’ve been caught on the wrong end of justice in this country … They don’t count. They’re on their way out.”

Must Read Stories

WBD Abandons Plan To Sunset Discovery+ Ahead Of HBO Max Merger

‘Late Late Show With James Corden’ To Be Replaced With ‘@midnight’ Reboot On CBS

Bonham Carter Reteams With ‘Crown’ Director; Zar Amir Ebrahimi, Henry Golding Pics

Oscar Hopeful ‘Aftersun’ Sets Streaming Record, Crosses Box Office Milestones

Read More About:

Source: Read Full Article