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In State of the Union, a feisty Biden calls for bipartisanship

Courtney Subramanian, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — In a State of the Union address that began as a bipartisan appeal, President Biden appeared combative and feisty at times as he sparred with Republicans over his legislative record, the federal deficit and border security.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., at one point tried to quiet hecklers who shouted as the president called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform and help him address border security.

Biden, who spoke for roughly an hour, sought to reassure Americans that he has repaired the economic damage wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. He reminded his critics that he has repeatedly defied predictions that he would be unable to work across the aisle.

“I don’t want to ruin your reputation,” Biden quipped to McCarthy early in his speech, “but I look forward to working with you.”

The president has yet to announce whether he’s officially running for re-election, but aides say he’ll make a decision in the coming weeks. His prime-time speech before a divided Congress and millions of Americans was an opportunity to celebrate the legislation he has signed, explain his efforts to curb inflation and lay out his vision for the next two years

The address was also an opportunity for Biden to soft-launch his all but certain 2024 campaign, reaffirming his pitch that he’s a steady hand who’s built his career on bipartisanship.


“We’re often told that Democrats and Republicans can’t work together. But over these past two years, we proved the cynics and the naysayers wrong,” he told the House chamber. “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.”

The speech also offered Biden, who turned 80 in November, a chance to convince voters and members of his own party that he is able to endure another four years.

But the public is pessimistic about the country’s future and the prospect of a second Biden term. About three-quarters of U.S. adults say the country is not headed in the right direction, compared with a quarter who say things are on the right track, an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released Monday found. Just 37% of Democrats said they want Biden to seek a second term, a notable drop from the 52% who said the same in the run-up to the midterm elections in November.

A State of the Union address “is an impossible speech to give for any president,” said William Howell, an American politics professor at the University of Chicago. “It’s a speech that has to politically attend to a lot of competing claims and it comes at a time when there’s acute uncertainty about the state of the world and the state of the economy.”


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