Republicans gave a mixed reaction to President Joe Biden’s first statements in his State of the Union address.
Republicans responded positively to Biden’s bipartisan overtures and push for increasing U.S. manufacturing.
Biden acknowledged that Democrats sometimes “went it alone” during the last Congress—including the passage of over $2.6 trillion in spending with no GOP support.
However, he called for bipartisanship in the now-divided Congress.
“To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together in this new Congress,” Biden said.
Republicans gave the comment a standing ovation.
Biden added later, “The people sent us a clear message. Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict, gets us nowhere.”
“And that’s always been my vision for the country: to restore the soul of the nation, to rebuild the backbone of America: the middle class, to unite the country. We’ve been sent here to finish the job!”
The GOP reaction is a positive sign for Biden, who will now have to work with Republicans for any policy items he hopes to pass before the end of his first term.
Biden also struck a populist note, referencing “the jobs that went away,” a reference to the explosive exodus of corporate manufacturers since the 1980s. Many of these jobs have gone to China, where labor laws are far laxer and wages far lower.
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.
“For too many decades, we imported products and exported jobs,” Biden said. “Now, thanks to what you’ve all done, we’re exporting American products and creating American jobs.”
In particular, Biden pointed to the CHIPS Act, which he said would bring thousands of jobs to Ohio.
This got a mixed reaction from Republicans.
Later, Biden 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,” Biden said later.
“I’m requiring that all construction products used in federal projects are made in America.”
These comments received a standing ovation from Republicans.
Biden Claims Strong Economy
The economy has been a key issue for Republicans since 2021 when inflation began to skyrocket.
In recent statements, Biden has insisted that the economy is strong and growing—a claim that Republicans reject.
In a Jan. 27 press release, Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee wrote that “Biden’s rhetoric doesn’t match his results.”
“While Biden [claims] the economy is growing strong, the latest report on economic growth reveals that the economy under his Administration’s policies has fallen short of expectations on seven out of the last eight economic growth reports,” they wrote. “In fact, the entirety of 2022 was worse for economic growth than expected. And even more trouble lies ahead, according to the latest Leading Economic Index report.”
Thus, Republicans were not pleased when Biden opened his address with claims of a growing economy.
“The story of America is a story of progress and resilience,” Biden said.
“We are the only country that has emerged from every crisis stronger than when we entered it,” Biden said later.
“That is what we are doing again,” Biden will say. “Two years ago, our economy was reeling. As I stand here tonight, we have created a record 12 million new jobs—more jobs created in two years than any president has ever created in four years because of you all, because of the American people.”
In addition, Biden made a comment suggesting credit for ending the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Two years ago, COVID had shut down our businesses, closed our schools, and robbed us of so much,” Biden said. “Today, COVID no longer controls our lives.”
Republicans withheld applause from each of these claims.
‘Greatest Threat Since the Civil War’
Biden also took a moment to make an aside about the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach near the beginning of the speech, calling it “the greatest threat [to democracy] since the Civil War.
“[Two] years ago, our democracy faced its greatest threat since the Civil War,” Biden said. “Today, though bruised, our democracy remains unbowed and unbroken.”
This fits into the larger narrative pushed by the now-defunct House January 6 Select Committee, which has painted the events of Jan. 6 as the culmination of a months-long plot by President Donald Trump and his allies to overthrow the U.S. government.
That day, a subset of protestors entered the U.S. Capitol during the certification of the 2020 presidential election results.
Democrats and other opponents of Trump have long described Jan. 6 as a “violent insurrection.”
Republicans were not fond of the claim and withheld their applause.