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In GOP rebuttal, Sanders cites Biden’s age, calls him ‘unfit’

Newly sworn-in governor who served in Trump White House says Democrat surrendered his presidency to ‘woke mob’

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivers the Republican response to the State of the Union address by President Joe Biden on Tuesday in Little Rock, Ark.
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivers the Republican response to the State of the Union address by President Joe Biden on Tuesday in Little Rock, Ark. (Al Drago/Pool/Getty Images)

Far from wanting President Joe Biden to “finish the job” — a phrase he used repeatedly — Republicans responding to Tuesday’s State of the Union address said Biden was unfit to continue serving in the role and was leading the country down the wrong road. 

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, tasked with the Republican response, said that Americans have a choice “between normal or crazy,” and cast Biden and his fellow Democrats as the latter. In a speech that focused on GOP priorities like the border and support for the military, she accused the left of starting culture wars. 

Sanders emphasized the age gap between herself and Biden and called for “a new generation of Republican leadership,” as Republicans are likely to try and cast Biden as too old for another White House term in the 2024 campaign. 

“President Biden and I don’t have a lot in common,” she said. “At 40 I’m the youngest governor in the country, and at 80 he’s the oldest president in American history. I’m the first woman to lead my state and he’s the first man to surrender this presidency to a woke mob that can’t even tell you what a woman is.”

Party leaders typically select an up-and-coming member of the party to give the response to a State of the Union. Sanders, a former White House press secretary under President Donald Trump and the daughter of a former Arkansas governor, was sworn in as Arkansas’ governor last month. 

After taking control of the House last month, Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s presence on the dais  was a reminder that Republicans now have more control over the fate of Biden’s agenda than they did the last two years. And while some Republicans responded by yelling at Biden during the speech about the fentanyl crisis and funding for Medicare and Social Security, the official responses showed the party may also focus on culture issues and the economy going into the 2024 campaign. 

Sanders leaned into more cultural issues, which Biden did not focus on as much, opting instead to focus largely on economic issues and his domestic agenda.

She also previewed an education package she’s set to unveil Wednesday that she said would increase wages for teachers and would “empower parents with real choices.” She criticized Biden for his handling of the southern border. 

“President Biden is unwilling to defend our border, defend our skies and defend our people. He is unfit to serve as commander in chief,” she said. 

In a separate Spanish response, Arizona Rep. Juan Ciscomani, a freshman who immigrated to the United States from Mexico, said the Biden administration continues “to push policies that hurt our families.”

“President Biden wants to tell you that everything is great, but why aren’t people feeling great? The American dream feels more unattainable, and sadly, President Biden fails to show leadership and present any viable solution,” he said.

Ciscomani said that House Republicans need to “protect and strengthen the future of Social Security and Medicare. Cuts to these programs are off the table,” after Biden appeared to get Republicans to agree to just that during a rowdy back-and-forth in his speech. 

Trump, who is again running for president at age 76, released a video statement saying “Biden and radical Democrats have wasted trillions of dollars and caused the worst inflation in half a century.”

Trump also criticized the increase in gas prices, crime and drug addiction. And he kept some of the focus on himself.

“Joe Biden’s weaponized Justice Department, and I’m a victim of it, is persecuting his political opponents,” Trump said, accusing the administration of “trying to indoctrinate and mutilate our children.

“He’s leading us to the brink of World War III,” Trump said. “And on top of all of that, he’s the most corrupt president in American history, and it’s not even close.”

As has been the case in recent years, there were also Democratic responses to Biden. Illinois Rep. Delia Ramirez gave a Working Families Party response and said Biden’s party should do more on issues like expanding the child tax credit and raising the minimum wage — policies that did not have enough support to be fully implemented when Democrats controlled both the House and Senate over the last two years. 

“What I want to say to President Biden and all my fellow Democrats in Congress is that we have two jobs,” she said. “We must stand up to the extremism of the MAGA Republicans. We have to show working people what Democrats will deliver for working families if they put us in control.”

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