Georgia Democrats applaud, Republicans pan Biden’s State of the Union speech

WASHINGTON — Georgia Democrats who attended President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday found plenty to love.

There was his endorsement of a cap on insulin costs for patients on private insurance, which U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath have long championed, plus his plug for improved policing standards as prompted by Warnock and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Biden also advocated for restoring the child tax credit that U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams and other liberals have backed, and he highlighted infrastructure dollars that are being spent “at major airports from Boston to Atlanta to Portland.”

On the other hand, Georgia Republicans panned Biden’s speech as out of touch and unserious. U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene stood up and shouted “liar” when he accused some Republicans of wanting to sunset Social Security and Medicare.

There were a few lines in Biden’s speech that brought almost every lawmaker in the chamber to their feet, regardless of party affiliation. The president received bipartisan standing ovations when he said he would enforce a rule requiring that only construction materials made in America be used in federal infrastructure projects and later when he said prosecutions will ramp up for individuals accused of obtaining COVID-19 relief dollars under false pretenses.

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff said the president’s focus on infrastructure resonated with him. Ossoff recently visited the cities of Byron, Doraville and Thomson to highlight federal dollars that will be used for pedestrian safety, drinking water and flood mitigation projects.

Biden’s remarks Tuesday helped bring home the importance of the bipartisan infrastructure law that Biden signed, Ossoff said.

“It makes a real difference in the daily lives of Georgians in every part of the state,” Ossoff said. “So I thought that the economic focus, the focus on infrastructure and the growth of America’s manufacturing sector was very strong and very relevant to Georgia.”

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, said he was pleased to hear Biden celebrating changes in federal law that allow hearing aids to be purchased over the counter without a prescription, something for which he had advocated. And Carter also agrees with Biden that the federal tax code is too complicated, although Biden did not endorse Carter’s remedy: a national sales tax to replace the federal income tax.

But Carter said Biden’s speech showed he is out of touch.

“The White House is only two miles away from the Capitol, but he is a world away from where we are,” Carter said.

He accused Biden of glossing over the continued strain that inflation has on Georgians. Carter also said the president, in highlighting the fentanyl drug crisis, should have addressed its connection to the immigration crisis at the southern border.

There were junctures where Republicans booed Biden as he delivered his speech, especially when he said some want to target Social Security and Medicare.

U.S. Rep. Mike Collins, a first-year GOP lawmaker from northeast Georgia, said he was not among those who yelled out during Biden’s speech. But he agreed with the sentiment.

“All that is just bogus lies,” the Jackson County resident said.