Georgia lawmakers display bipartisanship, division at Biden State of the Union

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union speech touched on issues Georgia lawmakers, especially his fellow Democrats, have widely championed.

He endorsed capping the cost of insulin and closing the health coverage gap, encouraged the Senate to pass a federal election bill named for the late Congressman John Lewis and proposed cutting the cost of child care.

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, a freshman from Atlanta attending her first State of the Union, said she found the speech even more praiseworthy than she expected.

“I didn’t expect to be moved by so much when I heard the conversation around child care and the importance of getting women back into the workforce,” she said.

Biden also touched on issues that Republicans could cheer, including more funding for police, securing U.S. borders and imposing additional sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine.

But the bipartisan applause lines were also accompanied by some heckling from GOP lawmakers. When Biden spoke about fixing the immigration system, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and other conservatives chanted, “Build the wall.”

Later, as Biden spoke about passing federal protections for transgender Americans, Greene shouted out again. Greene was expected to deliver the “America First” response afterward, representing the views of conservatives loyal to former President Donald Trump.

Every member of Congress was invited to attend the speech, although unlike in the years before COVID-19 they could not invite a guest. Many lawmakers waved tiny Ukrainian flags or wore blue and yellow attire and ribbons as a show of support for the country during its invasion by Russia.

Most of Georgia’s delegation was in attendance, including lawmakers from both parties.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter was among the Republicans in the audience. Earlier on Tuesday, Carter said that he has attended every State of the Union since being elected, as well as Biden’s inauguration last year.

The Republican from Pooler said he had grown disappointed with the lack of bipartisan outreach from the White House but that the speech was an opportunity to reset.

“I hope he is going to address the situation at the southern border,” Carter said before the speech. “I hope he is going to address crime. I hope he is going to address inflation. Those are kitchen table issues that Americans are concerned with.”

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff noted that Biden mentioned several issues that he had championed through legislation, such as addressing the opioid epidemic and expanding the use of solar energy. But the Democrat said he was most impressed by the overall theme of Biden’s address.

“I deeply appreciated the rousing call for national unity, which clearly resonated with members of both parties, and I think will have resonated with the American public,” Ossoff said. “It was a unifying speech at a moment when we need national unity.”

About the Author