‘Positive and Enthusiastic’: Democrats React to Biden’s State of the Union Address

By Joseph Lord
Joseph Lord
Joseph Lord
Joseph Lord is a congressional reporter for The Epoch Times.
February 8, 2023Updated: February 8, 2023

Democrats gave a strong endorsement to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, with one calling the speech “positive” and “optimistic.”

Republicans, in turn, described the speech with terms ranging from “divisive” to “delusional.”

Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) told the Epoch Times after the speech that he appreciated it.

“I think the President hit on all the right notes,” Bera said. “You know, he certainly is talking about unity. And we talked about restoring the strength of America, and don’t count America out, and talked about the legislation that we passed. But, you know, I thought it was a very positive, optimistic speech.”

During his speech, Biden called for a resurgence in American manufacturing—a message Republicans applauded.

“Where is it written that America can’t lead the world in manufacturing?” Biden said.

Later, the president called for a made-in-America policy that won a round of applause from Republicans.

“We’re gonna make sure the supply chain in America begins in America,” Biden said.

“We’re gonna buy American,” he said later, to another round of applause from Republicans.

Reactions

Bera was dismissive of concerns about the economy, contending that the United States is doing well compared to the rest of the world.

“I think you saw him speak to the American people about the positive things: yes, we’ve come through three years of a pandemic … families have suffered, we face challenges,” Bera said. “You had inflation and inflation numbers were coming down. Jobs are being created. And compared to the rest of the world, we’re actually doing well.”

Asked if Biden should run in 2024, Bera gave his support.

“Yeah, I think he has a platform to run on,” Bera said. “He’s got a record of achievement to run on. So I think he just laid out the case.”

Critics of Biden running again warn about the president’s advanced age and increasing susceptibility to cognitive decline and other conditions.

But not all Democrats embraced Biden’s messaging.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), one of the most moderate Democrats in the House, was more critical, arguing for the importance of producing energy in the United States and not making energy companies “the enemy.”

“Energy is very important to the United States,” Cuellar told The Epoch Times. “And we’ve got to make sure that we have clean energy. I don’t think the enemy is the energy companies—I think the enemy is the emissions. The emissions, whether it’s carbon or whether it’s methane, that’s what we ought to go after.”

Cuellar expressed doubt on Biden’s optimistic 10-year timeline to transition to clean and renewable energy sources.

Either way, Cuellar said, “I think we cannot make the energy companies the enemy.”

Asked about the border, where Border Patrol agents are dealing with unprecedented levels of illegal immigration, Cuellar said he wishes Biden had discussed it more.

“I personally wish she would have spent a little bit more time on it,” Cuellar said.

In sum, Cuellar said of the speech, “He focused more on the economy, the economy, the economy, the economy, which is the right thing to do.”

Bipartisanship

For Hillary Scholten (D-Mich.), the standout from Biden’s speech was his “strong message of bipartisanship.”

“To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together and find consensus on important things in this Congress as well,” Biden said, before touting several pieces of legislation that passed last year with bipartisan support, including the CHIPs Act and the infrastructure bill.

Scholten said bipartisanship was “very important” to her. “In my district, I chose tonight to attend with my fellow freshmen Republican Congressman John James, I literally crossed the aisle and sat on the Republican side,” she told The Epoch Times.

“I found that there were many moments where we were all standing in unison and cheering for issues like bringing manufacturing back home, buying American, common sense police reform, so that every individual can have the safety and security of coming home at night, and as we found tonight, protecting and shoring up social security,” she said.

The congresswoman was referring to an exchange earlier in Biden’s speech when he got into a spirited exchange with congressional Republicans.

The loudest Republican jeers came when Biden accused Republicans of planning to cut Social Security and Medicare, which some members of the party have suggested but whom Biden said he would not name.

“Liar!” shouted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

“We never said that!” said Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.)

But between jeers from Republicans and cheers from Democrats for his proposal to tax the wealthy, the president finally managed to bring the entire room to applause.

“So, folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now. Right?” Biden shouted. “All right. We’ve got unanimity!”

‘Finish the Job’

At one point in his speech, Biden called on Congress and the GOP to “finish the job” it had been elected to do by its constituents.

Many Democrats in their reactions to Biden’s speech built on this, using the phrase as a platform for specific policies.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the former House majority leader, said, “Let’s finish the job so that more of our workers and families have the tools they need to #MakeItInAmerica,” a reference to Biden’s call for increased domestic production.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote in a Twitter post: “I’m proud that Democrats are delivering big, bold action on infrastructure, clean energy, drug costs and more. But there’s more work to be done. I look forward to the work ahead as we continue to tackle the priorities that matter to the American people.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), best known for his role as the former chairman of the now-defunct House Jan. 6 Select Committee, applauded the president’s speech.

“[President Biden] highlighted many important factors for the American people,” Thompson wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. “President Biden’s policy of investing in America is clearly working. His leadership has helped protect America’s businesses and guided us through a COVID-19 pandemic.”

Thompson then turned to what he said were the “most important topics covered by President Biden”: Social Security and Medicare.

The senator intimated at claims that Republicans wish to dismantle these programs wholesale.

While a handful of Republicans have called for changes to Medicare funding, or for Social Security to be phased into private pension accounts, GOP lawmakers largely have made clear that they intend to leave the two programs alone.

“We will continue to stand with the American people and ensure the continuance of Social Security Medicare,” Thompson wrote. “[Biden] discussed the progress we’ve made over the last two years, which include expanding health care for veterans, addressing our national mental health crisis, and addressing a number of other critical issues.

“President Biden’s message of unity for the nation is to be commended,” Thompson said.

Emel Akan and Reuters contributed to this report.