McCarthy claimed Republican lawmakers wouldn't play 'childish games' at State of the Union


House Republicans heckled President Joe Biden during the address, shouting expletives and chanting.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had promised that his Republican caucus wouldn't play "childish games" during President Joe Biden's State of the Union address Tuesday night.

However, GOP lawmakers quickly proved McCarthy wrong, heckling Biden during his address, shouting expletives, and chanting about the border.

Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, called their behavior "outrageous and disgusting."

On Tuesday afternoon, hours before Biden's address, McCarthy told CNN that Republicans didn't plan to partake in any antics, obliquely mentioning former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's tearing up of a copy of former President Donald Trump's 2020 State of the Union address as he finished delivering it.

"We're members of Congress," McCarthy told CNN's Manu Raju in an interview on Capitol Hill. "We have a code of ethics of how we should portray ourselves, but also do our jobs, and that's exactly what we'll do. We're not going to be doing childish games, tearing up a speech."

McCarthy also privately warned his members on Tuesday that the "cameras are on" and the "mics are hot" during Biden's speech, and that they should behave accordingly, CNN's Melanie Zanona reported.

But about 40 minutes into Biden's speech, Republican lawmakers started acting out after Biden accused GOP lawmakers of wanting to "take the economy hostage" by refusing to raise the national debt limit without simultaneously making cuts to the federal budget. Biden pointed out that Republicans had offered no concrete proposals for how they would cut spending to balance the budget.

If Congress doesn't raise the debt limit, which, according to the Treasury Department, is the "total amount of money that the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations," the United States would default on its debt, which experts say could plunge the country into economic calamity.

"Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset," Biden said, referring to Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott's proposal to sunset every piece of federal legislation every five years.

Republicans started to boo; Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) stood up and pointed at Biden as she shouted, "Liar!" and "Bullshit!"

Those weren't Greene's only outbursts. She also yelled, "China’s spying on us!" and chanted, "Secure the border!" during Biden's speech.

When Biden said, "Fentanyl is killing more than 70,000 Americans a year," according to HuffPost's Philip Lewis, Rep. Andy Ogles (R-TN) yelled, "It’s your fault." McCarthy shushed his members immediately after. Ogles defended his conduct after the speech, telling reporters that his comment was "a visceral response.”

Despite McCarthy's plea for calm, there had been hints that Republicans were going to cause a stir during Biden's speech even before it began.

On Tuesday afternoon, Greene walked around Capitol Hill with a white balloon apparently meant to symbolize the suspected Chinese spy balloon that the U.S. military shot out of the sky on Feb. 5 over the Atlantic Ocean.

"Just an innocent white balloon," Greene said while walking out of her office with it in her hand.

Democrats mocked the GOP for their behavior.

"Marjorie Taylor Greene doesn’t know the difference between the State of the Union Address and the Rocky Horror Picture Show," Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) tweeted. "She just showed everyone how ridiculous MAGA is."

The University of Virginia's Sabato tweeted on Tuesday night: "The behavior of a sizeable group of Republican legislators tonight was outrageous and disgusting. Their screaming and catcalling at the President was obscene. Free speech? Sure. Decorum and courtesy? DEAD. This was unthinkable when I started watching #StateOfTheUnion in the '60s."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.