Biden points to US challenges on immigration 0:52
When US President Joe Biden addressed the House of Representatives on Tuesday to deliver his annual State of the Union address, his message was one of pure optimism, even in the face of outright hostility.
Watch President Biden's State of the Union address complete in Spanish
The sight of Biden smiling and offering a scathing response through multiple rounds of boos from some House Republicans was, in many ways, an apt illustration of his presidency and a useful preview of his likely 2024 candidacy.
Biden delivered a campaign speech, according to Al Cárdenas 1:07
Most Americans say he hasn't accomplished much, many Democrats aren't enthusiastic about his running for re-election, and he faces clear scorn from most Republicans.
But Biden pulled through.
Complying in what was widely seen as a test run for his re-election announcement, Biden took credit for the progress made during his first two years in office and stressed that the job is not done yet.
The Biden Administration says that Title 42 will end when the public health emergency for covid-19 expires
He was up against sometimes rambunctious Republicans, with whom he sparred vigorously from the podium over spending cuts.
The spirited display drew cheers inside the White House and offered the best preview yet of the energy Biden hopes to bring to the campaign trail soon.
The speech conveyed a streak of populism rooted in strengthening the middle class: classic Biden, but delivered at a crucial moment for his political future.
No president comes into his State of the Union address wanting to rattle off a long list of accomplishments and proposals, but, almost inevitably, the speech often veers in that direction.
Biden was no different, even as the president tried to tie it all together with a “finish the job” refrain, a phrase that appeared 12 times in his prepared text.
Rather than touting a single achievement, however, Biden hoped to address the national mood, which remains pessimistic even as the economy improves and the country tries to get back on track amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Here are six takeaways from Biden's State of the Union address:
Biden spars with unruly Republicans
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene yells into the camera as President Joe Biden speaks during the State of the Union address.
(Jack Gruber/USA Today Network)
In a room full of elected officials, identifying an adult shouldn't be difficult.
But ahead of Tuesday's speech, both Republican leaders and Biden's team telegraphed a desire to act as the "adult in the room" for the night: the mature voice seeking common ground and turning down the temperature.
For the first 45 minutes of Biden's speech, that seemed to be the play for both sides.
But when Biden began criticizing Republicans for plans that would slash Social Security and Medicare, decorum fell apart.
His accusations appeared to provoke Republicans, who hurled accusations of "liar" from their seats.
That in itself was unprecedented.
What happened next was weirder: Biden leaned into the opening, talking back and facing off with his interlocutors.
“I enjoy the conversion,” he quipped, suggesting that they agreed on the need to protect senior programs.
For Biden, House Republicans act as a useful foil as he prepares to announce his 2024 intentions. His fair on Tuesday was the best glimpse of how he will approach his candidacy, at least until a Republican opponent emerges from the Republican primary.
White House officials were delighted with the off-script comings and goings.
"I couldn't have written it better," said one official.
More than the substantive back and forth, one official noted how he seemed to be cheering for Biden in real time.
“He gets energy from his public,” the official said.
It's not a new take on how Biden operates: his advisers constantly talk about how he finds energy from him in engaging with people.
Biden and his team believe a serious focus on government contrasts favorably with House Republicans, whom they accuse of threatening to send the nation into default and piling up distractions while they investigate the president and his family.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy entered the speech vowing to treat Biden with respect and urging his fellow Republicans to do the same.
It was a difficult task, given how little control he has over his conference and the propensity of certain Republicans to act.
As lawmakers like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene heckled Biden, McCarthy was silent, but his gaze at the crowd spoke for itself.
She later found herself shutting down her lecture several times in the face of outbursts that interrupted the president.
President Joe Biden points as he delivers his State of the Union address.
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
For the third year in a row, Biden set the record for the oldest president to address a joint session of Congress.
It's an underlying fact of his presidency: No one older has ever been in the job.
As Biden prepares to ask voters to keep him in office until age 86, it was critical that he look and sound like someone who can keep up with the job.
His pronunciation was forceful, even if he stumbled over some of his prepared lines.
When the Republicans interrupted him, he responded quickly, deftly turning his complaints into challenges.
Over the weekend at Camp David, attendees set up a podium, microphone, lights and teleprompter in a conference room inside the Laurel Lodge ballroom for Biden to practice his speech with his team.
The possibility of interruptions was something White House officials kept in mind as they prepared for the speech.
At the White House, a similar setup has been used in the Map Room for speech practice.
Attendees focused on the message, but also on the language, ensuring that the speech lent itself to a vigorous presentation.
After all, for many in Biden's television audience, Tuesday's speech was one of the only times they actually heard and saw the president this year.
A classic Biden
Perhaps more than his previous two addresses to Congress, Tuesday's speech was peppered with phrases and lines that appear almost every time he speaks: wisdom passed down from his father, anecdotes about inequality and his vision of the middle class.
“Many of you feel like you've been forgotten,” he said, appealing directly to a demographic that used to reliably vote Democratic but has recently turned to the Republican Party.
Biden calls for $35 cap on monthly insulin cost 0:49
“In the midst of the economic turmoil of the last four decades, too many people have been left behind or treated as if they were invisible.
Maybe it's you, watching from home,” she said.
"You wonder if there is a way for you and your children to get ahead without drifting away."
“I get it,” he said.
Appearing for the first time in front of a divided Congress, Biden also relied on his record by working across the aisle, even as he faced boos from Republicans.
In many ways, both Biden and McCarthy hoped that a more mature performance would set the tone for the next two years of divided government, even as they remain deeply divided on policy.
President, I don't want to ruin his reputation, but I look forward to working together,” Biden said as he launched into his speech.
He acknowledged that during the first years of his presidency "we were quite at odds."
But he appealed to his political rivals for cooperation.
"To my Republican friends, if we were able to work together in the last Congress, there's no reason we can't work together in this Congress as well," he said.
trying to connect
President Joe Biden shakes hands with Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy upon arrival.
(Jacquelyn Martin/Pool/Getty Images)
If there's one political conundrum Biden's advisers are urgently trying to solve, it's why so many Americans seem to believe he's accomplished so little.
By all accounts, Biden has passed major landmark laws that could have transformative effects on the US economy. But polls show the vast majority are not feeling them.
Biden hoped in his speech to close that gap, show that he cares about what Americans care about, and identify the problems he seeks to solve.
His focus on very specific issues, like eliminating "junk fees" for consumers or reining in tech companies, are areas the White House believes will resonate with Americans who aren't necessarily in tune with the ins and outs of Washington.
At times, his pitch seemed tailor-made for a nation of angry consumers, from hassles over airline baggage fees to the fine print on hotel bills.
“Americans are tired of being taken for fools,” he said, listing the litany of common complaints.
But Biden and his team are well aware that simply telling people their lives are getting better isn't enough—they have to really feel it.
Many of the achievements that Biden helped surpass in the past two years are still in the implementation phase, making their effects elusive for now.
Biden seemed to acknowledge this when he urged lawmakers to extend a price cap on insulin, a benefit that is still in place.
Focus on China
Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on February 5.
(Petty Officer 1st Class Tyler Thompson/U.S. Navy)
The furious Republican reaction to Biden's handling of an alleged Chinese spy balloon was instructive to many in the White House.
China was included in the text of Biden's speech long before the balloon entered US airspace.
But the raid, which drew a diplomatic backlash from China and raised doubts among Republicans, gave Biden's message about competing with Beijing a new urgency.
“Make no mistake: as we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country.
And we did it,” Biden said in his speech.
Biden and his aides believe that steps to counter China are one of the few areas where he could find bipartisan support.
She saw some success on that front with the passage of a law that boosted US semiconductor production last year.
Biden is sensitive to accusations that he is soft on China, according to those around him, as he is still trying to stabilize the world's most important bilateral relationship.
Republicans look to the 'new generation'
The Republican Party pick to deliver her response to Biden's speech, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders is, at 40, the youngest governor in the country.
Half the president's age, her choice was clearly to contrast a different generation of leaders.
Partly because he lacked an audience and partly because Biden was vigorously provoked by Republicans in his own speech, his message was much more serious than the State of the Union message.
Delivered solemnly from the governor's Little Rock mansion, the speech was more of a dark warning against Democratic policies that she called "crazy," a description she used three times.
This was the response in Spanish from the Republicans to the State of the Union 1:47
“The dividing line in the United States is no longer between right and left,” he said.
"The choice is between normal or crazy."
She accused the Biden administration of appearing “more interested in awakening fantasies than the harsh reality Americans face every day” and leaned heavily on culture war issues that she said her party “didn't start.” And he never wanted to fight."
And while she cited her tenure as White House press secretary for Donald Trump, she wasn't very confident in her association with the former president.
Instead, he seemed to call for a changing of the guard, a call for a generational change that could apply to Democrats and Biden as well as Republicans and Trump.
“It is time for a new generation to lead.
This is our moment.
This is our chance,” she said.
State of the Union address