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Top One Magazine

‘He rope-a-doped them’: Democrats celebrate GOP jeers at SOTU

Prominent Democrats on Wednesday rallied behind President Joe Biden after he faced tense jeering from Republicans during his State of the Union address.

“It showed just that Biden was talking to the average American, and the contrast of these guys screaming and yelling and throwing junk on the wall, and not having a plan, just calling names, I think is going to serve the president so well and it’s going to serve the country well,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

The president’s speech at the Capitol on Tuesday night began without much theatrics but slowly escalated over the roughly 75 minutes to GOP heckling and off-script responses from Biden. The jeering ranged from shouted boos to audible calls from the Republican side of the House floor of “secure the border” and “your fault.”

Schumer said on Democrats’ side of the room Tuesday, “there was excitement” as Biden was “hitting it out of the park.” The contrast with the Republican side of the room, he said, will be “remembered for quite a while, by anybody who watched it.”

At one particularly tense moment, GOP lawmakers booed the president when he claimed Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset — referring to Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-Fla.) proposal to wind down all laws after five years. Biden went off-script as the outrage from Republicans on the floor grew louder, attempting to clarify “I don’t think it is a majority of you” and finally saying, “So folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare, off the books now, right?”

Schumer said Wednesday “there is no way” to eliminate the deficit in 10 years — a goal of Republican leadership — without slashing Medicare and Social Security, though House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) did pledge Tuesday that he wouldn’t touch the two programs in the ongoing debt limit fight. The New York Democrat also called Biden “deft” for letting Republicans “walk into his trap” by essentially making them assert to the public they aren’t for cutting Medicare and Social Security.

“Joe Biden was so deft. He let them walk into his trap. He rope-a-doped them,” Schumer said. “And now all of America has seen the Republican Party say, ‘No, we’re not going to cut Social security and Medicare.’ He did a service.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a press gaggle Wednesday that the president effectively put Republicans “on the defense” about Social Security and Medicare, after conservatives have for years tried to make cuts to the programs.

“He put them on the defense, right? That’s what he did last night, right?” Jean-Pierre said. “And he called them out in front of millions and millions of Americans who were watching.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) — who yelled “Liar!” at Biden during the contentious moment on Social Security and Medicare — told CNN on Wednesday said she “didn’t take any bait” during the speech, and the president “got exactly what he deserved” from Republicans.

“You know what? People are pissed off for the president of the United States to come into the people’s house and lie about the economy, the border, and then act like he is terrified of China and unwilling to talk about the fact that they spied on us last night,” Greene said.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who stepped down from leadership earlier this year but remains a member of Congress, thought Republicans “protested” too much on Tuesday on Medicare and Social Security, telling MSNBC “they really cannot erase who they are.” But she added there’s a way to go forward on the debt ceiling, “and it has to be in a bipartisan way.”

Pelosi came under fire during former President Donald Trump’s 2020 State of the Union address, when the then-speaker ripped up a copy of Trump’s speech just after he finished delivering it.

White House chief of staff Ron Klain concurred with Pelosi on Wednesday, saying Biden made it clear he’s ready to work with Republicans and also prepared to stand up to them if they try to cut Social Security and Medicare.

“They saw the president who has been working successfully on a bipartisan basis these past two years say that he’s got a blue collar blueprint to rebuild the middle class and asking Republicans to join him in finishing that important job,” Klain told MSNBC.

But McCarthy took a different tone on Biden’s address, calling it “one of the most partisan State of the Union speeches I’ve ever heard” in a tweet Wednesday.

Vice President Kamala Harris called the Republican jeering “theatrical” and applauded the president for being “in command” and staying “focused on the American people” as opposed to “the gamesmanship that was being played in the room.”

“The president, it’s his nature and it’s his commitment to the American people to work across the aisle,” Harris said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “That’s not going to stop even if some people are cynical about it.”

Assistant Democratic leader Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.) said Biden’s speech could be a preview for his 2024 campaign for reelection, should he make good on his stated intentions to mount another White House bid. Clyburn added that “it was the best effort I’ve seen” from Biden in a “long, long time,” and praised his “maturity” in responding to the hecklers.

“I saw in him last night the kind of maturity that the American people would like to see in a president,” Clyburn said. “He took on the hecklers. Let them have their say. Gave them a nice little smile and responded in a very positive way.”

After delivering his speech Tuesday, Biden will hit the road this week to promote his agenda. The president will travel first to Madison, Wis., on Wednesday to push his administration’s economic priorities, followed by a Thursday trip to Tampa, Fla., to discuss Medicare and Social Security.

The president made no mention Tuesday night of a reelection bid but his address was widely seen as an early look at the message he might campaign on amid concern among Democrats about his age — Biden recently turned 80 and is the oldest man ever to hold the office of president — and sagging job approval numbers.

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former Trump administration press secretary who delivered the GOP response to Biden’s speech on Tuesday, highlighted the president’s age, but Harris on Wednesday pushed back on the narrative that Biden’s age should hold him back, saying “age is more than a chronological fact.”

“I think what people want to know is what have you done, and when you look at what President Biden has achieved, what our administration has achieved … I think you will see that we have a very bold and vibrant president in Joe Biden,” Harris said on “Good Morning America.”

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