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In today’s edition: President Biden delivers a fiery State of the Union speech, Republicans tap Sen.͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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March 8, 2024


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Today in D.C.
  1. Biden’s fiery State of the Union
  2. Katie Britt responds
  3. TikTok flop
  4. Gaza port
  5. The tax bill’s champion
  6. The GOP’s IVF dilemma

PDB: Lankford explains his “that’s true” moment

Biden to Philadelphia for post-SOTU campaign event … February jobs report out at 8:30 a.m. … Zelenskyy meets Erdogan

— edited by Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann and Morgan Chalfant


President Biden savages ‘my predecessor’ in State of the Union


President Biden delivered a fiery stemwinder against Donald Trump in a State of the Union speech that served as a general election preview. Never mentioning his opponent by name, he denounced “my predecessor” over a dozen times, accusing him of banning abortion, sabotaging immigration legislation, and posing “the gravest threat to our democracy since the Civil War” with his efforts to overturn the last election.

Of course, the big question heading into the night wasn’t the substance of the speech, which mostly stuck to familiar Democratic themes, but how he would address concerns about his age. Biden acknowledged he’d been called “too old,” but framed the election as a battle against “ancient ideas.” Democrats were encouraged (and, some admitted, relieved) by his energetic performance. “No one’s going to talk about cognitive impairment now!” an ebullient Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. told Biden afterwards. “I kind of wish sometimes I was cognitively impaired,” Biden cracked back.

Republicans helped Biden a bit by lowering expectations to the floor: An ad by a pro-Trump super PAC ahead of the broadcast asked whether he would soon drop dead. Instead, the top GOP critique afterwards was that he was too loud: “It was like an angry old man with a poor memory shouting at people to get off his lawn,” said Rep. Bob Good, R-Va.

— Benjy Sarlin


Katie Britt delivers GOP rebuttal

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Republicans tapped 42-year-old Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala. to call the 81-year-old Biden a “dithering and diminished leader” in the party’s official rebuttal. Britt played a little defense, promising “continued nationwide access to in vitro fertilization.” But the main focus of her remarks was a blistering critique of Biden’s policies, from overseeing a border crisis that was “almost entirely preventable” to boosting China by creating a campaign account on TikTok. The instant reviews on X were withering, for the most part, even among some conservatives, who mostly were concerned with Britt’s intense and theatrical delivery. By the end of the evening, there seemed to be less talk about her vice presidential chances than about who might play her on Saturday Night Live’s cold open.


House to vote on TikTok bill after lobbying effort backfires

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The House plans to vote next week on a bill that would force ByteDance to divest TikTok or face a ban on the platform, after a significant effort by the platform to defeat the measure backfired on Capitol Hill. The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to advance the bill in an unheard of 50-0 vote, hours after congressional offices were inundated with calls from TikTok users upset over the measure (including callers who reportedly threatened suicide or pretended to be a congressman’s child facing an emergency). TikTok had urged users to call their representatives to oppose it, describing it inaccurately as a “TikTok shutdown.” The White House-backed measure looks likely to pass the House by a large margin, and Punchbowl News reports today that House Democratic leadership intends to endorse the bill. But Donald Trump could be a complicating factor: He suggested on Truth Social late last night he might not back the legislation (even though his administration tried to ban the platform). “If you get rid of TikTok, Facebook and Zuckerschmuck will double their business. I don’t want Facebook, who cheated in the last Election, doing better,” wrote Trump, who recently name-checked a Republican donor who invests in ByteDance at a Club for Growth retreat. In the Senate, Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. said in a statement she would be “be talking to my Senate and House colleagues to try to find a path forward that is constitutional and protects civil liberties.”

Morgan Chalfant


Biden orders Gaza port to ramp up aid

Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images

The U.S. military will begin constructing a port on the Gaza coast to bring more aid to starving Palestinians, a new action President Biden highlighted last night as he faces rising pressure from Democrats over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. “Humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip,” he said in a message to Israel’s government. Senior administration officials insisted the plan for the port wouldn’t involve U.S. troops on the ground in Gaza — just on military vessels offshore. An Israeli official said their government supports the plan. While the move may provide Biden some political cover, the port is still expected to take weeks to set up and experts and officials said it is insufficient to address the scale of the suffering in the enclave. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. welcomed the decision but doubled down on his demand that the U.S. condition aid to Israel, blaming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “extreme, right-wing government” for the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Meanwhile, Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio posted on X that Biden’s move was “insane” and would put American troops at risk. During the State of the Union, Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. and Cori Bush, D-Mo. held up signs calling for a “ceasefire now.”


One Senate Republican sounds very determined to pass the tax bill

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The split between Senate Republicans over Congress’ $78 billion tax deal might be coming to a head. The legislation has been bogged down as Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, the top GOP member of the Senate Finance Committee, has sought changes. But on Thursday, another key Republican on the committee, Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., told reporters that he wanted to move forward on the bill even if Crapo “falls short in the effort to seek changes.” He also offered “encouragement” to other senators who might join him. Intriguingly, he later told Semafor that he aims to discuss the bill with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, with whom he worked closely while co-authoring 2021’s CHIPS and Science Act. “I’ll do whatever I can to be supportive of the process,” he said. Young also told Semafor he believed there was a “good shot” of enough Republican senators supporting the bill after discussing it at Wednesday’s lunch with GOP senators. An aide to Young said he and Crapo are still having “good conversations” about the bill, however. So don’t expect any end-runs yet.

Joseph Zeballos-Roig


Republicans keep tripping on IVF questions

Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

Republicans are still trying to find their footing on IVF access, an issue Biden made prominent mention of in his speech. Speaker Mike Johnson sounded ambivalent on the topic in a CBS News interview earlier that day, saying Republicans support “full access” to IVF but that it should be handled by states and that some restrictions may be legitimate. He twice declined to answer whether it was “murder” to destroy an unused embryo as part of that process. “It’s something that we’ve got to grapple with,” he said. Johnson, like many Republicans, is a sponsor of the Life at Conception Act, which declares a right to life from the moment of fertilization with no carveouts for IVF. In a sign of Republican unease, swing seat Rep. Michelle Steel, R-Calif. announced on the House floor she was withdrawing her backing of the bill to avoid “confusion” about her pro-IVF stance. And in Maryland, moderate GOP Senate candidate Larry Hogan called Alabama’s recent court decision “outrageous” in an Axios interview, but repeatedly refused to say what, if any, federal legislation he’d support to protect IVF.

Live Journalism

Lael Brainard, Director of the White House National Economic Council; Xavier Becerra, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Service; Julie Sweet, CEO Accenture and David Zapolsky SVP, Global Public Policy & General Counsel, Amazon have joined the world class line-up of global economic leaders for the 2024 World Economy Summit, taking place in Washington, D.C. on April 17-18. See all speakers, sessions & RSVP here.


Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: Democrats want to get a floor vote for bipartisan data broker legislation alongside the TikTok bill, but that could complicate its passage given some Republicans have taken issue with the former.

Playbook: President Biden had his two biggest online fundraising hours of this cycle as he delivered his State of the Union speech, according to his campaign.

The Early 202: House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn. stressed the importance of helping Ukraine and believes an aid bill can pass in the House “if the speaker has a way to get it through rules, break it up into three bills, clean up things that our members really have a problem with.”

Axios: Celebrity chef José Andrés is working with the United Arab Emirates to deliver food to Gaza, via ships that could arrive from Cyprus in a matter of days.

White House

  • President Biden heads to Philadelphia today for a campaign event, kicking off a post-State of the Union sprint. His Cabinet is heading out on the road, too, with Monday trips planned for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, and EPA Administrator Michael Regan.
  • Vice President Harris will sit for interviews with ABC, CBS, and NBC today before heading off to Arizona to discuss abortion rights.
  • Deborah Lipstadt, the ambassador tasked with combating antisemitism, said that the Council of American-Islamic Relations has “no place in the fight against antisemitism.” Democrats have distanced themselves from the advocacy organization over comments made by its leaders on the Oct. 7 attack. — Jewish Insider
  • The Biden administration is sending a Trade and Investment Mission to the Philippines beginning Monday that will be led by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.


  • The Senate is expected to vote today on a House-passed funding bill to avert a partial government shutdown.
  • Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. was seen on CNN mouthing “that’s true” as Biden described the immigration deal he negotiated. “He was actually walking through some things that were in the bill,” he told Semafor. “I’m not surprised [cameras] caught me saying out loud that was true.” But Lankford added that Biden only “told half the story” on the border. “The other half is he has things that he could actually do… that’s the frustration of this.”
  • Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash. captured the jubilant mood among Democrats after Biden’s speech. “I was apprehensive going in tonight about the energy the president would show,” he told Semafor. “I just didn’t know it would be 100% of the energy, 100% of the time.”
  • Rep. Garret Graves, R-La. had some choice words for Republicans who shouted during Biden’s address. “I don’t agree with that behavior,” he told Semafor. “The speaker respectfully asked members to keep their behavior under control. Coming from a bad kid in school and someone who did that as a kid, I don’t agree. I think in some cases it shows immaturity.”
  • The House passed an immigrant enforcement bill named after Laken Riley, the nursing student who police say was killed by a Venezuelan migrant. Thirty-seven Democrats voted with Republicans to pass the measure.
  • Biden went off his remarks to reference Riley in his address and said she was “killed by an illegal,” angering Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas. “I think it’s dangerous rhetoric,” he told the Texas Tribune.
  • Democrats are not happy after Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif. called her Senate primary “rigged.” She clarified she was referring to outside spending on negative ads, not election integrity. — Politico
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska with fellow Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. / Screen grab via X (@lisamurkowski)


  • White House National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard successfully pushed for a rosier outlook for interest rates in President Biden’s budget proposal, which is expected to be released this month. — Bloomberg
  • Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the Fed isn’t far from having confidence that inflation is moving to 2%, in which case it will start cutting interest rates.
  • Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stepped in to save New York Community Bank, but it might not be the last regional bank that needs saving, Semafor’s Liz Hoffman writes.


Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal calling on regulators to block the proposed merger between Capitol One and Discover. “This deal is about more than the danger posed by another big bank,” she wrote. “Allowing a giant bank to run its own network to process billions of credit-card transactions would create a new Wall Street monster with greater power over American families and small businesses.”


Former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy attended last night’s State of the Union with his former colleagues. Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas did not attend.

On the Trail

No Labels is holding its meeting today where the group is expected to move forward with plans to put together an independent “unity” ticket.

National Security

  • The U.S. is working on a U.N. Security Council resolution that would warn against space-based nuclear weapons, as the Biden administration tries to prevent Russia from deploying such a weapon. — Bloomberg
  • U.S. intelligence agencies plan to brief Donald Trump on national security issues if he becomes the GOP nominee — as is customary — despite concerns about the way he handles classified information. — Politico
  • A series of mock news sites posing as local U.S. outlets appear to be part of a Russian propaganda scheme. — New York Times

Foreign Policy

Sweden has officially joined NATO.


Huawei and SMIC used technology from two U.S. companies to produce an advanced chip that made waves in China last year. — Bloomberg

Big Read

In her column for the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan wrote that the main takeaway from President Biden’s State of the Union address is that “there’s life in the old boy yet.” The speech will quell talk, at least temporarily, about Biden being too old for the job, she argued. “He showed energy and focus, blurred some words and thoughts, maintained a brisk pace. He almost never spoke softly. He sometimes yelled. There was a give-’em-hell-Harry vibration, as if he’d been reading up on Truman,” Noonan, a former Ronald Reagan speechwriter, wrote.


Stories that are being largely ignored by either left-leaning or right-leaning outlets, according to data from our partners at Ground News.

What the Left isn’t reading: New York Attorney General Letitia James was booed during a speech at a New York City Fire Department promotion ceremony.

What the Right isn’t reading: The Nave demoted Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas in 2022 after a Pentagon inspector general report confirmed he “made sexual and denigrating statements” about a female subordinate and drank alcohol with subordinates while working as a doctor in the White House medical unit under Donald Trump, the Washington Post reported.

Principals Team

Editors: Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann, Morgan Chalfant

Editor-at-Large: Steve Clemons

Reporters: Kadia Goba, Joseph Zeballos-Roig, Shelby Talcott, David Weigel

One Good Text

Gabe Amo is a Democratic congressman from Rhode Island.

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