Wednesday night’s State of the Union speech from US President Joe Biden was a loud one. Between the president’s effort to reclaim the room and the alternating cheering and heckling from the US House chamber, the temperature in the room escalated throughout the one-hour speech and the 30 minutes of Biden circulating among lawmakers afterwards.

His 37% approval rating made this likely the most important speech of his career. Americans disapprove of his performance more than they did Trump, Obama, Bush, and Clinton ahead of their bids for reelection.

It didn’t get off to a great start, as Biden entered the chamber before House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-LA, could introduce him. Johnson told Fox News afterwards that Biden “missed his cue” because Biden was 15 or 20 minutes late to arrive and just walked in.

“I didn’t want to interrupt the president, and be disrespectful,” said Johnson.

Biden did not mention his November opponent, former President Donald Trump, during the speech, referring only to his “predecessor.” However, the speech was less a State of the Union and more a campaign trail speech.

Among the points Biden made, he accused his “predecessor” of encouraging Russia to invade the NATO countries that did not meet their required financial contributions toward the international organization. Trump was reacting throughout the speech live on Truth Social, the platform he created after other platforms blocked his accounts.

“No, I said NATO has to pay its bills, and if it doesn’t pay its bills, we are not going to protect you. THE MONEY CAME POURING IN! Under other Presidents, NATO was BROKE,” he wrote.

President Joe Biden delivers 2024 State of the Union. Source: White House livestream
President Joe Biden delivers 2024 State of the Union. Source: White House livestream

Biden also touted the economy, voiced his support for access to abortion, and warned Americans that the 2024 election is a test of the nation’s democracy.

“Not since President Lincoln and the Civil War have freedom and democracy been under assault here at home as they are today,” Biden said. 

He also repeated themes from his 2020 campaign on taxes.

“For folks at home does anybody really think the tax code is fair?” said Biden. “Do you really think the wealthy and big corporations need another $2 trillion in tax breaks? I sure don’t. I’m going to keep fighting like hell to make it fair.”

Throughout the speech, some Republican lawmakers were openly objecting to comments by the president, while some Democrat lawmakers were cheering. Amongst the vocal crowd was Steve Nikoui, father of one of 13 service members killed at the Abbey Gate attack in Afghanistan, and an invited guest of Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla.

Nikoui was arrested for disrupting the speech. When Biden claimed that America was safer than it was when he took office, Nikoui shouted “Abbey Gate” and US Marines” from his seat in the chamber.

The Gold Star father of Lance Cpl Kareem Nikoui was charged with “crowding, obstructing or incommoding,” which carries a $500 fine or 90 days in jail.

“Our officers warned him to stop and when he did not, the man was removed from the House Galleries and was arrested,” Capitol Police told reporters. “Disrupting the Congress and demonstrating in the Congressional Buildings is illegal.”

Sen. Katie Britt, R-Alabama, delivers response to the State of the Union Source: Sen. Britt YouTube
Sen. Katie Britt, R-Alabama, delivers response to the State of the Union Source: Sen. Britt’s YouTube

The Republican response to the State of the Union was delivered by Sen. Katie Britt, R-Alabama, the youngest US senator, speaking from her kitchen and calling Biden “out of touch.”

“He just doesn’t get it… I wish he understood what real families are facing around kitchen tables just like this one,” she said. “This is where we have tough conversations.”

“The country we know and love seems to be slipping away and the next generation will have fewer opportunities and less freedoms than we did. I worry that my own children may not get a shot at living their American dreams,” she added, focusing on inflation and calling Biden’s border policies “a disgrace” and “entirely preventable.”

How Biden’s raucous speech night and reaction to it lands with North Carolina voters headed into the 2024 general election season remains to be seen. Tuesday’s primary election saw the lowest voter turnout in 20 years, down 20% over the 2020 primary election.