By: Conor J. Kelly
There is a saying that I have heard many times in politics, “a hit dog barks.” This old saying is almost always illustrative of individuals who protest too firmly against an accusation against them, signifying that the accusation is almost certainly true. And there is no better phrase to describe the GOP’s response to Biden’s state of the Union earlier this week.
On Tuesday, President Biden addressed the House of Representatives, pushing back on their claims of his supposedly failed presidency. During the speech, the president directly criticized some, not all, of the members of the House GOP for their proposals to let Medicare and Social Security sunset after five years. Sunsetting, of course, would mean that these programs would have to be approved again by congress after the deadline occurs, something that likely would not happen.
Such a position is, of course, unpopular. That unpopularity inevitably forced the GOP-controlled House to respond immediately, screaming at the President in the middle of his speech, with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) screaming at the president and calling him a liar.
Republicans should not be so loud in their protests or accusations, as their statements on Social Security and Medicare are all public knowledge. Florida Senator Rick Scott proposed that very plan with his so-called “plan to rescue America.” Under this plan, all legislation would have to be voted on again by Congress after 5 years after its original passage.
While the proposal itself does not mention either Social Security or Medicare, the fact that no exemption exists for either program means that Senator Scott’s proposal would effectively allow for the sunsetting of these two incredibly important programs. Nor was Senator Scott the only Republican to support a similar goal.
The Republican Study Committee released its budget plan titled Blueprint to Save America, which proposed raising the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67, along with recommendations to cut funding for disabled Americans. Not to mention they proposed increasing the age of eligibility for Social Security to 69.
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) also feign anger at the idea that he would want to get rid of Social Security, but as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes pointed out, Lee himself has been caught on camera saying that his long-term goal is to phase out Social Security, and to “pull it out by its roots.”
This isn’t to say that all Republicans want this to be the direction that the GOP follows. Both of these programs are incredibly popular and would be electorally dangerous for any party to attack, but Biden didn’t claim it was a majority of the GOP—he argued that it was some of the Republican Caucus, and yet, the GOP still threw a fit.
This is not the first time that Republicans have heckled President Biden during his state of the Union address. In 2022, representatives Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Greene both heckled Biden, with Boebert going out of her way to accuse Biden of killing thirteen service members during the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. It is worth noting that she did this while the President was referring to his son’s death and his service to the country.
Some point to former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to rip Trump’s speech after his 2020 State of the Union as equally disrespectful as the heckling that Presiden Biden has endured in the last two speeches he gave before Congress. That is an absurd proposition.
Aside from being a distraction from the content of the GOP’s failed policy-making, the comparison is insulting to the public. The GOP’s response to Biden correctly calling out their attempts to rob the American public of services they pay for, which would harm millions of Americans, is far worse than a pointless attempt by Pelosi to appeal to her own base. And it is certainly not comparable to accusing the President of murdering service members while he is referencing his dead son. Millions of people could be harmed by the GOP’s policy-making. Nobody was hurt by Pelosi ripping up a piece of paper.
Biden’s speech and the GOP’s pathetic response to it demonstrate the fundamental dysfunction within the Republican Party. They could have come to Congress with a legitimate proposal for change for Biden to work, but instead, they have embraced conspiracism and austerity politics. Say what you will about Biden, but he hit the GOP where at its core, and they deserved it.