A loose, masterful President Joe Biden gave a surprisingly entertaining State of the Union address Tuesday night, and never more so than when he was directly engaging with Republicans. After an early dig at Republicans who vote against infrastructure spending only to ask for projects in their district—“We’ll fund your projects. And I’ll see you at the ground-breaking,” he said—Biden really went for it on the debt ceiling and, in particular, Republican plans to hold Social Security and Medicare hostage to raise the debt ceiling.
Biden started by detailing how we got to this point on the debt ceiling—how the national debt rose under his predecessor while Congress voted three times to increase the debt limit. “Tonight, I’m asking this Congress to follow suit,” Biden said. “Let us commit here tonight that the full faith and credit of the United States of America will never, ever be questioned.”
And he was clear about why that’s a question mark right now: “Some of my Republican friends want to take the economy hostage—I get it—unless I agree to their economic plans. All of you at home should know what those plans are. Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset,” Biden said, accurately. “I’m not saying it’s a majority—“
Republicans did not like hearing this truth, and loud booing broke out, and Biden went way off script, inviting them to contact his office for copies of the specific Republican plans to do just that. “I’m glad to see, I’m telling you, I enjoy conversion. You know, it means if Congress doesn’t keep the programs the way they are, they go away. Other Republicans say—I’m not saying it’s a majority of you, I’m not even saying it’s a significant number, but it’s being proposed by individuals. I'm politely not naming them, but it's being proposed by some."
And then he reeled them in. “So folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books, right?” Cheering broke out.
“We’ve got unanimity,” Biden cheered, beaming, and returned to the script for a minute.
“Social Security and Medicare are a lifeline for millions of seniors,” Biden said. “Americans have been paying into them with every single paycheck since they started working. So tonight, let’s all agree—and apparently we are—to stand up for seniors. Stand up and show them we will not cut Social Security. We will not cut Medicare.”
And they stood. Literally. Even Kevin McCarthy, seated right behind Biden. Right before Biden pledged to veto any efforts to cut Social Security or Medicare—efforts that Biden had originally been planning to highlight are coming as part of the House Republican plan to take the economy hostage over a debt ceiling increase.
That won’t stop Republicans from turning around and demanding the thing they were So Outraged Biden would suggest they wanted. But Republicans have to leave knowing that Biden—the guy they like to portray as a bumbler in cognitive decline—got them on national television, and that he’ll call them out over it again.