Mar 6, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: House GOP tries to shut down State of the Union heckling

Reps. Lauren Boebert, Byron Donalds and Marjorie Taylor Greene in the House chamber.

Reps. Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene chant "build the wall" at the 2022 State of the Union. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images.

House Republican leadership is trying to tamp down on a potential repeat of the chronic heckling that engulfed last year's State of the Union, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The effort by Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to rein in his members underlines how much politics have changed since 2009, when the House passed a resolution of disapproval against Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) for disrupting then-President Obama's speech.

What we're hearing: Johnson, at a closed-door GOP conference meeting Wednesday, called for "decorum" towards President Biden, according to a half-dozen lawmakers who were present.

  • Johnson told members, "we should be professional, we should maintain a high standard of decorum," said Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.).
  • "He's reminding us to be respectful of the institution ... and to the president of the United States and the office, whether we agree or not," said Rep. Mark Alford (R-Mo.).

Zoom out: Trump faced boos and taunts from Democrats during multiple State of the Union addresses.

  • But the chaos rose to a new level under President Biden, with Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) loudly heckling him throughout his speech in 2022.
  • Last year, the heckling reached a fever pitch, with Biden even playing call and response with Republicans on entitlements.

Reality check: Republicans have started giving out this advice annually to their members ahead of the address, to little effect.

  • Some are skeptical Johnson's latest pleas will tamp down the heckling. "Will they do it? Does the Baptist Church have a bus? Of course they do," said Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.).
  • Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) said people will "probably" still heckle because "a lot of it is spontaneous," saying of Greene in particular: "They're not going to tell her what to do. She captains her own ship."

The bottom line: Many in the GOP are worried about backlash. "They did it to Trump and nobody said 'boo,' but when we do it, we're going to get made an example of," Burchett said.

  • "And that will be the meme, or whatever the young people call them, for a long time."
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