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Jeffries to Republicans calling Biden speech too political: ‘Get lost, you’re a joke’

The head of the House Democrats had some choice words Friday for those Republicans accusing President Biden of delivering an overly political State of the Union speech the night before. 

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) noted that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) had attended the speech wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat — the campaign slogan for former President Trump — while heckling Biden midspeech about border security.

Jeffries also pointed out the surprise appearance of former Rep. George Santos on the floor during Biden’s speech. The Long Island Republican was expelled from Congress in December — and faces almost two dozen criminal charges— over a long series of ethics and campaign finance allegations, but he announced Thursday night that he intends to run for reelection in another district held by GOP Rep. Nick LaLota (N.Y.).

Given those breaches of both decorum and House rules, Jeffries said Republicans have no standing to chide others about flouting etiquette.  

“That was an embarrassment last night. A complete embarrassment,” Jeffries said Friday morning during a press briefing in the Capitol. 

“Marjorie Taylor Greene, who’s basically running the Republican conference, shows up in campaign paraphernalia, and then these people want to lecture Joe Biden because he delivered a strong and forceful speech that made them uncomfortable because he exposed their lies and shamelessness?” Jeffries continued. 

“We have one message for extreme MAGA Republicans who want to lecture us about decorum: Get lost. You’re a joke. Exhibit A: Marjorie Taylor Greene. Exhibit B: George Santos.” 

Biden used his 68-minute speech Thursday night to promote the legislative achievements of his first term and make the case to voters that he deserves a second. But he also took numerous shots at his “predecessor” in the Oval Office, warning that Trump’s return to the White House would threaten democracy both at home and abroad. 

“My predecessor, a former Republican president, tells Putin, ‘Do whatever the hell you want.’ That’s a quote. A former President actually said that, bowing down to a Russian leader,” Biden said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I think it’s outrageous, it’s dangerous, and it’s unacceptable.”

Republicans quickly accused Biden of abusing the annual tradition to deliver attacks on Trump and Republicans — a message they characterized as more stump speech than State of the Union. 

“I was expecting President Biden to use tonight’s State of the Union address to find common ground and inspire a shared vision for America. Instead, the President delivered a divisive campaign speech,” said Rep. Blake Moore (R-Utah), vice chair of the House GOP conference.

Yet some Republicans used the event to send campaign messages of their own. Greene, a conservative firebrand and staunch Trump supporter, was the most obvious figure, sporting a red MAGA hat and pressing Biden to take a stronger stand on border security. 

Even before the speech began, Greene confronted Biden as he walked toward the House dais, handing him a button advocating for Laken Riley — a Georgia nursing student allegedly killed by an undocumented immigrant — and urging the president to “say her name” during the speech. 

When Biden addressed border security without mentioning Riley, Greene shouted from the audience for the president to do so. Biden responded by holding up Greene’s pin and addressing the issue. 

“Laken Riley, an innocent young woman who was killed by an illegal,” he said. “To her parents I say my heart goes out to you having lost children myself. I understand.”

Greene’s outburst, among others throughout the speech, defied a plea from House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who had urged the members of his conference beforehand to refrain from any such eruptions. Afterward, however, Johnson defended the GOP hecklers, saying their confrontations were justified given Biden’s “overly partisan speech.” 

Santos’s appearance was, perhaps, even more extraordinary, given his unpopularity not only in the eyes of Democrats, but also his own Republican colleagues — particularly those from his home state — who had led the effort to expel him. 

“The guy’s a moron. He shouldn’t be here,” Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) said after the speech.

Jeffries sought to portray both Greene and Santos as emblematic of what the broader Republican Party now stands for in the Trump era. Their antics on Thursday, he said, highlight that shift — and offer voters “a clear choice” in November’s elections. 

“It’s kind of an extraordinary thing that this guy won’t go away. But it’s indicative of the reality that there’s a clear choice in terms of what the American people face, between Democrats and Republicans,” he said. “Team normal versus team chaos. Team reasonable versus team dysfunction. And team get-stuff-done versus team extreme. Team Biden versus team Marjorie Taylor Greene and George Santos. And that’s a clear choice for the American people.”

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