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Biden electrifies Democrats, spars with Republicans in fiery State of the Union address

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A spirited President Joe Biden delivered a fiery, partisan State of the Union address on Thursday, fit for an election year with enormously high stakes in a divided nation.

“Not since President Lincoln and the Civil War have freedom and democracy been under assault here at home as they are today,” Biden said early in the speech.

“What makes our moment rare is that freedom and democracy are under attack, both at home and overseas, at the very same time,” he said.

“Overseas, [President Vladimir] Putin of Russia is on the march, invading Ukraine and sowing chaos throughout Europe and beyond. If anybody in this room thinks Putin will stop at Ukraine, I assure you, he will not,” the president said to cheers from Democrats and a applause to smattering of Republicans.

“My message to President Putin is simple. We will not walk away. We will not bow down. I will not bow down,” Biden said.

The president also celebrated Sweden’s ascension into NATO earlier in the day, as Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson sat to the left of First Lady Jill Biden in her guest box.

US First Lady Jill Biden alongside Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson waves during US President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address in the House Chamber of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on March 7, 2024. 
Mandel Ngan | Afp | Getty Images

On domestic policy, Biden was even more confrontational than he was on foreign affairs, repeatedly calling out Republicans and sparring live on TV with some of the loudest voices in the GOP caucus.

As a coterie of conservative Supreme Court justices sat just feet away from him, Biden excoriated them for overturning the reproductive rights enshrined in Roe vs. Wade.

“In its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court majority wrote that, ‘women are not without…electoral or political power’,” Biden said.

Then he paused and said to them, “You’re about to realize just how much.” With that, Democrats in the chamber jumped to their feet and clapped and cheered.

Biden also went toe to toe with Republicans over a border security bill.

“In November, my team began serious negotiations with a bipartisan group of senators. The result was a bipartisan bill with the toughest set of border security reforms we’ve ever seen in this country,” said Biden.

U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) yells at U.S. President Joe Biden as he delivers the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., March 7, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

As Republicans booed the bill that they agreed to in the Senate, but then sunk in the House, Biden turned to his left, where Republican members were seated.

“Oh, you don’t think so? You don’t like that bill, huh? Darn, that’s amazing,” he said.

“Because that bipartisan deal would hire 1,500 more border security agents and officers, 100 more immigration judges to help tackle a backload of 2 million cases.”

Again and again, Biden met Republican interruptions and boos in real time with quips and jabs that appeared to disarm them.

Overall, the speech was a clear, and effective, effort to convey to the public and to his party that he is a candidate ready for a fight in November.

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