Mar 17, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: Top Republican calls for canceling future Biden SOTU speeches

Tom Emmer

Photo: Emmer looks on as House Speaker Mike Johnson gives a press conference. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) said GOP leadership should reconsider how they invite presidents to give the State of the Union address, citing President Biden's "divisive" speech.

Why it matters: Emmer argued Biden's remarks were a "hyper-partisan" campaign speech, telling Axios the president should not be invited to address Congress next year if he's elected to a second term.

What they're saying: The Minnesota Republican said he's bullish on former President Trump's odds of defeating Biden in November, but felt Biden's speech should have had a more unifying tone.

  • "That was about the most divisive State of the Union — I wouldn't extend him an invitation next year, if that's what we're going to get," Emmer said during an interview at the House GOP retreat.
  • "He's not going to be there next year — it'll be a different president. But I think you've got to rethink issuing invitations for a State of the Union if it's not going to be a State of the Union, and that was not. That was a campaign speech," he added.

Flashback: Emmer is not the first Republican to float blocking Biden from giving the annual speech, with multiple members having sought to prevent the president from speaking this year.

  • Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) introduced a bill aimed at barring Biden from delivering the speech unless he submitted his budget and national security proposal on time.
  • Former House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry (R-Pa.) called for Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to rescind his invitation unless Biden took stronger action to address securing the border.

The big picture: As political polarization has grown, the State of the Union has become an increasingly tense and partisan affair — with Republicans heckling Biden each of the last two years.

  • While Johnson called for his members to maintain decorum, members —including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) — repeatedly interrupted Biden during his speech this month.
  • Republicans have attempted to paint Biden's speech as "angry and divisive" ahead of the 2024 election, with multiple members pointing to the lack of a bump in the polls as a sign it wasn't well received.
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