State of the Union 2024: House Republicans blast Biden’s ‘campaign rally’ as political theater 

House Republicans walked away from President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address feeling as if they attended a campaign rally, calling the speech “shameful” and comparing the energy in the House chamber to a “high school gymnasium.”

Biden delivered his third State of the Union address before Congress on Thursday, facing several instances of thunderous applause from Democrats, heckling from Republicans, and even shouting from attendees that resulted in one arrest of a guest.

Following the State of the Union, GOP lawmakers were quick to blast the president for what they said was using the historic annual address as his personal reelection platform.

“That was not a State of the Union. That was a Democrat campaign rally,” Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-WI) told the Washington Examiner. “Like he owes the networks in-kind contribution forms.” 

“The majority of his statements were political statements for him to put down President [Donald] Trump and elevate himself for election,” Van Orden added. “That is not what this address was supposed to be designed for. … It’s shameful.”

Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK) also blasted Biden for using the State of the Union for political gain, saying it was evident based on the “campaign one-liners” that he used throughout the speech, particularly during comments on inflation, Social Security, and Ukraine.

“It didn’t really address the things I think the American people wanted to hear,” Bice told the Washington Examiner, such as inflation affecting consumer prices, a topic she said can often get “overshadowed” by what’s happening at the southern border.

Border security was the main issue on GOP lawmakers’ minds ahead of Biden’s address, with members hoping to hear solutions but expecting “blame-shifting.” Eyes were on the president to see if he would say the name of Laken Riley, a nursing student who was allegedly killed in Georgia by a Venezuelan immigrant arrested in 2022 for crossing the border illegally but later released into the country.

Ahead of the State of the Union, lawmakers passed the Laken Riley Act to require the detention of immigrants who committed burglary or theft, but they were almost unanimous in calling on Biden to address both Riley’s death and the influx of immigrants at the southern border.

Heckling from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) eventually led to Biden saying Riley’s name, admitting that she was “killed by an illegal” and offering his condolences to Riley’s family. However, some Republicans believed the president was “forced into it” and would not have done it without badgering from Greene.

“He didn’t have any other choice,” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) told the Washington Examiner, adding that the “classy” thing to do would have been for Biden to show more sympathy.

Rep. Monica De La Cruz (R-TX), who gave the Spanish-language Republican rebuttal to the State of the Union, told the Washington Examiner that though she did not think Biden intended to say Riley’s name, “I’m glad that he did.” 

When asked about Biden admitting Riley was killed by an “illegal,” De La Cruz said the use of the word “shocked” her but she was happy he used it.

“Because at the end of the day, [Laken Riley] does matter, and she is one of countless stories across America where you have an illegal immigrant that should not have been here due to their criminal record that is on the street and ends up killing and brutally assassinating an innocent American,” De La Cruz added.

A notable moment of the State of the Union happened at the very beginning when House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) did not announce Biden as House speakers typically do before the annual address. The speaker’s office said Biden started without waiting for the introduction, and De La Cruz said she would leave the “nonsense” of Johnson’s perceived snub of the president to “D.C. pundits.”

“We do live in Washington, D.C., where it is a telenovela. I say that all the time,” the Texas congresswoman added.

The chamber was full of across-the-aisle banter, with Democrats booing and shushing Republicans who shouted words at Biden during his speech. Earlier this week, Johnson had encouraged his GOP colleagues to follow decorum and avoid loud jeering that has been present in previous State of the Union addresses. Despite some outliers, Van Orden said he believed Republicans behaved better than Democrats did on Thursday night.

“I’m looking across the aisle there and I think I’m in a high school gymnasium,” the Wisconsin congressman said.


Johnson himself called Biden’s address a “hyperpartisan” speech and a “pretty vitriolic one at that.”

“He shouted at the audience. So much of that was unnecessary,” Johnson told reporters. “The country needs to be united. This commander in chief is unwilling or incapable of doing that, and I think that’s what the American people saw tonight.”

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