State of the Union 2023


By Sean O'Sullivan

On the evening of Tuesday, February 8, President Biden delivered his second State of the Union Address to the United States Congress.  For the first time in his Presidency, Biden was addressing a divided Congress:  a Republican House and a Democratic Senate.  The President stood speaking in front of Vice President Harris and the newly elected Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy.  First Lady Jill Biden joined all of the guests invited by the President and members of Congress in the gallery.

Prior to the address, McCarthy is said to have held a meeting with the House Republican Conference about being respectful throughout the President’s speech.  During the speech, McCarthy can be seen “shh-ing” House Republicans interrupting the President with shouting and boos.

Joining the Congress in the House Chamber Tuesday evening were five of the Supreme Court’s justices including Chief Justice Roberts, Associate Justices Kagan, Kavanaugh, Coney Barrett, and the Biden’s appointee from 2022, Ketanji Brown Jackson.  Behind the justices were both Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy, two retired justices.  Chairman Mark Milley, and the other Joint Chiefs were also in attendance.

On the other side of the aisle, the Presidential Cabinet was seated.  All eyes were on Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, who contacted both President Biden and Speaker McCarthy about the accumulating debt the United States has, along with a warning that without proper action, the United States would default in June.

As usual for a State of the Union Address, a Cabinet member was selected to be the “Designated Survivor.”  A tradition that has grown in popularity in past years with rising threats of terrorism and violence, the designated survivor offers the American People and the leaders of our government some comfort.  A Designated Survivor is someone chosen from the Line of Succession, usually a Cabinet Member, who is taken to an undisclosed location for the duration of the Joint Session of Congress.  In the case of a catastrophic event that kills every member of the Line of Succession who have convened in the House Chamber, this person will be safe and sound in a secure place, ready to take the Presidential Oath of Office if needed.  This year’s Designated Survivor was Marty Walsh, the Secretary of Labor, who is planning to leave the Biden Administration soon.

Once everyone was finally seated, everyone stood up again to greet President Biden as he walked down the aisle greeting the members of Congress who lined the aisle on both the right and the left.  On the edge of the Republican side of the chamber, sitting along the aisle, was George Santos, the Representative from Long Island, NY, who has been accused of lying about many aspects of his life ranging from education to family to his past work life.  At the end of the speech, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah confronted Santos saying, “You’re a disgrace, you do not belong here.”  Some say that Romney, a more senior Senator now, is becoming the conscience of the Republican Congress.

The speech began with the President’s congratulations to Speaker McCarthy and Hakeem Jeffries, the first African American House Minority Leader.  The President started introducing his agenda for the next year and the things he hopes to accomplish with the new Congress.

The President referenced many of the guests seated in the gallery.  He recognized Tyre Nichols’ parents and hoped to once again bring the question of police brutality to light.  The President looked towards a Kentucky Infrastructure Worker who is excited to work on the bridge that borders Cincinnati, Ohio to Northern Kentucky.  He also called for a plan to work towards banning assault rifles and to stop opioids from affecting teens in our country.

The President announced his plans to cap the price of insulin and to ensure that big corporations pay their fair share in Federal Taxes.  President Biden said that billionaires should not be paying less in taxes than a nurse, a firefighter, or a school teacher.  Biden promised all Americans receiving less than $400,000 each year would also not see an increase in any of their taxes.

To address the debt, President Biden recalled the proposal by some Republicans in Congress to cut spending for Social Security and Medicare.  When Marjorie Taylor Greene began shouting, “Liar!  Liar!” and other Republicans began booing, Biden offered to have them look at the proposal his office had received.  However, when Republicans and Democrats all seemed to be against cutting spending for these programs that promote the welfare of Seniors in our nation, Biden used the moment to secure a deal that said that Congress would “stand up for seniors” and leave these programs and their budgets alone.

Towards the end of his address, President Biden pointed towards the rebuilding of our Democracy.  Now 2 years in, Biden will soon be faced with the decision of whether or not to run for reelection to the Presidency.  It has been 2 years since the January 6 attack on the Capitol and the aftermath of the last election, yet, many Americans still have this on their minds.  President Biden recognized Paul Pelosi, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, who was attacked by far-right extremists looking to take his wife hostage in the fall.  He said that we must continue the fight to retain the sanctity and safety of our union and must come together now so that we may move forward together in the future.

President Biden then wrapped it up by fulfilling his Constitutional Duty:  “He shall from time to time give to Congress information on the State of the Union…” (Article II, Section 3).  President Biden said, “Because the soul of this nation is strong, because the backbone of this nation is strong, because the people of this nation are strong, the State of the Union is strong.”

President Biden believes that our nation is ready to move forward from this point, for all of us to work together to make this nation the best it can be.  Hopefully he is right.