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Republicans heckle Biden after he swipes at their Social Security positions

Peter Nicholas

Peter Nicholas is senior White House reporter for NBC News digital.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden took aim at Republicans at several points in his State of the Union address, but he provoked the fiercest reaction when he said that some in the party want to gut Medicare and Social Security. 

“Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset,” the president said, referencing a means by which government programs end without a vote in Congress. 

At that, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, sitting behind Biden in the House chamber, conspicuously shook his head no.

“Let me give you — anybody who doubts it contact my office,” Biden continued. “I’ll give you a copy of the proposal."

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington, as Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., watch.
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, on Tuesday.Jacquelyn Martin / Pool via AP

Boos rained down.

McCarthy had warned his caucus before the address that they needed to show decorum throughout the speech. But fellow Republicans did little to hide their pique. Some GOP lawmakers loudly shouted, “No!” 

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., sitting in the back of the chamber, yelled, “Liar!” 

Biden appears to have been referring to a proposal last year from Sen. Rick Scott, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Tucked into a policy manifesto Scott, of Florida, released was the line: “All federal legislation sunsets in five years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.”

Democrats seized on the language as proof that the GOP wanted to do away with popular pieces of the nation’s social safety net. Even some Republicans joined in the criticism of Scott. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell later told reporters that Scott’s recommendation “will not be part of the Republican Senate majority agenda.”

Scott himself denied he was targeting Medicare and Social Security, insisting he instead wanted to draw attention to the programs’ financial difficulties.

Biden seemed unfazed by the uproar in the chamber, and Democrats seized on every chance to stand and applaud him. “You tell ‘em, Joe!” Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., said.