Mar 8, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Biden's State of the Union hecklers face internal GOP groans

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, wearing a red blazer, white shirt, buttons and red hat, seated with colleagues in the House chamber.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene: Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images.

House Republicans' repeated outbursts at President Biden's State of the Union address on Thursday were met with discomfort and disapproval from GOP colleagues.

Why it matters: Heckling has become a hallmark of Biden's addresses to Congress, with the president even getting into back-and-forth interactions with specific lawmakers.

  • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) frequently disrupted the speech, including getting Biden to reference Laken Riley, a nursing student from Georgia killed by an undocumented immigrant.
  • Biden was repeatedly heckled by lawmakers on immigration, gun control, taxes — and even by a guest who yelled about Afghanistan.

What they're saying: One House Republican called Biden's speech "loud and angry," but told Axios they felt the heckling was "sad and unnecessary."

  • "What the heck is going on in this place," the GOP lawmaker exclaimed.
  • Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) told Axios "there were times when I was sitting there like, 'this is awful,' and wanting to say things," but "I don't think it's appropriate."
  • "There's some implicit respect for the president that you should have," Graves added.

The backdrop: House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) told colleagues in a closed-door GOP conference meeting on Friday that they should refrain from heckling Biden and show "decorum" throughout the speech.

  • Part of the concern was the risk of playing into Biden's hands and allowing him to score points off exchanges with members.
  • Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), who had warned ahead of the speech about blowback from heckling, told Axios afterwards, "I wouldn't have done it. Show respect."
  • "You've got to remember where you're at – you're in U.S. history and you're in the United States Congress," Burchett said.

The other side: Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.), who yelled, "lies!" at one point in the speech, told reporters it was "shameful for the president to show up here and hold a campaign rally as opposed to an address."

  • Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) said he did not participate in the heckling, but "it's hard to sit there and listen to an abject obvious lie ... if there was anybody doing that, I can understand it."

Go deeper: Katie Britt slams Biden on border in SOTU response

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to say that Rep. Derrick Van Orden is from Wisconsin, not Ohio.

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