President Biden and Republican lawmakers engaged in an animated back-and-forth during Tuesday’s State of the Union address over whether to raise the debt ceiling.
“Some of my Republican friends want to take the economy hostage, I get it,” Biden said over threats made by Republican lawmakers to insist on spending cuts before they would agree to raise debt ceiling, “unless I agree to their economic plan. All of you at home should know what those plans are.”
As Biden continued his speech, a handful of Republicans began voicing their displeasure, calling out and interrupting the president.
“Instead of making the wealthy pay their fare share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security sunset,” Biden said as many Republican booed him.
“Anybody who doubts it,” Biden said as a chorus of Republican boos ensued, “contact my office, I’ll give you a copy of the proposal.”
As Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, continued to boo and taunt the president, he quipped, “That’s OK, I enjoy conversion.”
“If Congress doesn’t keep the programs the way they are, they can go away, Republicans say. I’m not saying it’s a majority of you. I don’t even think it’s a significant majority—” Biden said before being cut off by more jeering. “It’s being proposed by individuals. I’m politely not naming them, but it’s being proposed by some of you.”
At one point, Greene could be heard calling Biden a liar.
“The idea is, we’re not going to be moved into being threatened to default on the debt if we don’t respond,” Biden said, drawing applause from his Democratic colleagues.
After Republican curtailed their vocal objections, Biden concluded by saying, “So folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right? They’re not to be touched. All right.”
That again gave Democrats something to cheer.
While it’s unusual for lawmakers to shout during presidential addresses to Congress, it’s not entirely unprecedented. In 2009, Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., yelled out “You lie!” during a health care speech by President Barack Obama.
Wilson’s outburst was roundly criticized by Republican leaders at the time and he quickly issued an apology.