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Several Republican lawmakers shouted jeers at President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address Tuesday night, including after Biden claimed some in Congress are trying to cut Social Security and Medicare in exchange for raising the debt ceiling–even though House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has repeatedly said that is not an option.
About midway through his speech, Biden said that some Republicans “want to take the economy hostage unless I agree to their economic plans,” claiming some in the GOP ranks are willing to let the country default on its debt unless cuts to Social Security and Medicare are made.
The president briefly paused his speech after the Republican side of the House chamber erupted in backlash—McCarthy, seated behind Biden, smirked and repeatedly said “no,” while television feeds showed firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) standing up from her seat and shouting: “Liar!”
The president responded to the rebukes by saying “I’m glad to see it, I enjoy conversion.”
Biden faced a few other rounds of heckling during his speech: An unidentified Republican lawmaker appeared to yell “it’s your fault” when Biden began talking about fentanyl overdose deaths, and Greene appeared to shout “China is spying on us” at another moment during the address, leading McCarthy—who reportedly urged his members to behave ahead of the primetime event—to shush Greene.
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) caused a massive uproar in 2009 when he yelled “you lie” at former President Barack Obama during a joint session of Congress. He quickly raised more than $1 million in campaign contributions after making the comment.
“No president added more to the national debt in any four years than my predecessor,” Biden said, in an attack on former President Donald Trump, whom he did not name throughout the speech.
The debt ceiling loomed over Biden’s address as one of the biggest issues heading into the night, but he only spoke for a brief time about it. The White House has repeatedly said it will not negotiate spending cuts with Republicans in exchange for raising the debt limit, even though McCarthy insists a decrease in spending is essential, though he has not publicly identified what programs he would like to see cut—outside of saying Social Security and Medicare will not be affected. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the federal government has until early June to raise the debt ceiling or else the country will not be able to pay its bills, which would likely send stocks plunging and push the nation into a recession. Biden and other Democrats have accused Republicans of seeking to cut Social Security and Medicare in the past, often citing a proposal by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) to require federal laws to automatically sunset after five years—a policy that could include the two popular programs.
Biden made no mention of negotiating with Republicans to reach an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, even as he made bipartisanship a consistent theme throughout the speech.
McCarthy: Social Security, Medicare cuts ‘off the table’ (The Hill)
Debt Ceiling Showdown: McCarthy And Biden Had ‘Very Good Discussion,’ Speaker Says—But No Deal Yet (Forbes)
The Debt Ceiling, Explained—What Happens If The U.S. Doesn’t Raise It (Forbes)
Federal Government Officially Reaches Debt Limit, Triggering ‘Extraordinary Measures’ To Prevent A Default—Here’s What That Means (Forbes)