Joe Biden heckling new normal for Republicans

Yet the rules are only as strict as the spokesman charged with enforcing them, and McCarthy did little to silence his unruly members, mostly remaining silent while they shouted. A spokesman for McCarthy did not respond to a request for comment.

Such a scene would not have flown in the UK Parliament, where rowdy debates are a tradition and Members often scoff loudly but are not allowed to use expletives or make allegations of wrongdoing, including lying.

“If that had been in the British House of Commons, it would have stayed on the word ‘liar’,” said Sean Haughey, lecturer in political science at Liverpool University. “The spokesman would have intervened immediately, giving the person an opportunity to withdraw their comment and, if they refused, escorted them out.”

The coarsening of behavior in Congress, he added, could have real consequences at a time when political extremism is on the rise in the United States.

“When you see an increase in this type of behavior in old established democracies, it’s usually symptomatic of a breakdown in democratic norms,” ​​Haughey said.

Biden embraced the carnival-like atmosphere, at one point almost grinning at the reaction he elicited, and suggesting Republicans had taken his bait on securing entitlement programs. “As we all seem to agree, Social Security and Medicare are off the books now!” said the President.

Such outbursts have led to official reprimands in the past, such as in 2009 when Republican Rep. Joe Wilson yelled “you’re lying” at President Barack Obama during a public health address. He issued a profuse apology later that night, and the House voted within days to condemn his comment as “a breach of decency” which “denigrated the conduct of the joint session discrediting the House”.

But in recent years other protest rallies have been allowed to pass by.

Last year, Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert faced no consequences when she yelled, “They put them there — 13 of them” when Biden mentioned the flag-draped coffins of American service members. The president had spoken about measures to help veterans with cancer, but Boebert was referring to the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, when an attack on Kabul airport killed 13 US soldiers.


In February 2020, a handful of members of the Democratic House of Representatives walked out in protest during President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address. That was before Speaker Nancy Pelosi dramatically tore up the pages of Trump’s address after his speech ended — an episode that even Republicans worried about Tuesday night’s outbreaks reached out to justify.

“We should increase the decorum of the house. But it’s hypocritical on their part — should we have censured Speaker Pelosi for tearing up the speech?” said Republican Representative Don Bacon. “I think we should all do better.”

But experts fear that ignoring Tuesday night’s heckling could make it harder to return to an era of more polite manners — especially given how much more indecent behavior has graced the convention halls in the past. A famous example of how bad things can get comes back in 1856 when a member of the House of Representatives hit a Senator with a stick.

“It’s not like this type of behavioral abuse hasn’t happened before,” said Joanne Freeman, a Yale University professor of American history who has researched congressional violence.

But she said Tuesday’s outbursts were particularly troubling because “this one was extreme, it was repeated, and it came from people who already disrespected the government and the presidency.”

“It’s not just some random people yelling at the president,” Freeman added. “It is part of an ongoing assault on national governmental institutions and the national political process.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times. Joe Biden heckling new normal for Republicans

Callan Tansill

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