Speaking on the Senate floor the morning after the president’s remarks, the Senate minority leader began by saying that Mr Biden is a “likable person” that many of those present remember serving with in Congress.
Mr McConnell then said that while the tone of the president’s remarks was understated, “the content was anything but”.
He then worked through a laundry list of Republican criticisms of the administration, from decreased defence spending, to a larger role for the federal government, to the humanitarian crisis at the border.
The senator also remarked on what he sees as the administration’s neglect of international relations, mentioning China, Russia, and Iran, before turning to criticise the scale of the Biden plans for infrastructure, families, jobs, gun control, and electoral reform.
“That was the backdrop for last night’s speech. But instead of practical plans to fulfill these basic responsibilities, America heard a lengthy liberal daydream,” said Mr McConnell.
The minority leader said that the bottom line was that a year ago, a Democrat said that the crisis of the pandemic gave the left a tremendous opportunity to restructure the country in the party’s vision.
“Well, last night President Biden said much the same. That his administration intends to turn a crisis into opportunity. The far-left certainly gets the message,” said Mr McConnell. “Some of the most liberal members of Congress have gone out of their way to say they are surprised and delighted by the president's willingness to do things their way.”
The senator’s remarks come after the president specifically mentioned him during his speech, recalling how Mr McConnell had once told him to name a bipartisan cancer research bill after his late son Beau.
In one of the few moments of bipartisanship during Mr Biden’s speech, lawmakers from both parties stood to cheer the president’s call to work towards ending cancer.
Mr Biden also applauded a group of Republican senators who had put forward their own proposals on police reform and infrastructure, saying that Democrats welcome ideas.
However, in his remarks on Thursday, Mr McConnell decried Democrats by saying that they are pursuing a “divide and conquer” strategy instead of the bipartisan approach they promised.
“This isn't what the American people voted for,” said the minority leader. “This country just elected a 50-50 Senate, a very closely divided House, and a president who talked a big game about cutting deals, bringing people together, and building bridges.”
While both houses of Congress may be evenly split between the two parties, the challenge for Republicans is that, according to polls, much of the Biden legislative agenda is broadly popular — particularly on infrastructure — and his personal approval rating remains solid.
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