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Speaker Johnson urges GOP lawmakers to maintain decorum at State of the Union

Speaker Johnson urges GOP lawmakers to maintain decorum at State of the Union

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is urging GOP lawmakers to maintain decorum when President Biden delivers his State of the Union address Thursday night, after Republicans had a number of outbursts during last year’s speech.

Johnson made the request during a closed-door GOP conference meeting Wednesday morning, three Republican lawmakers who attended the gathering told The Hill.

“Decorum is the order of the day,” Johnson told members, according to one lawmaker.

“He said we should carry ourselves with good decorum,” another member said.

The plea from Johnson came one day before Biden is scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address to a divided Congress that includes many of his foremost Republican critics.

That dynamic was on full display last year, when some GOP lawmakers heckled the president throughout his speech in the House chamber. Cries of “secure the border” were heard at one point during the speech, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) called Biden a “liar” when he was discussing potential cuts to Social Security and Medicare as part of a deal on the debt limit.

The heckling about Social Security and Medicare led to an unusual back-and-forth between Biden and his Republican critics, which prompted an agreement from individuals in the room that the two programs should remain intact.

“Well, I’m glad to see — and now, I tell you, I enjoy conversion,” Biden said, prompting laughs.

“Let’s all agree — and we apparently are — let’s stand up for seniors,” he later added.

Heckling from political opponents during the State of the Union address is not uncommon. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) notably shouted “you lie” at then-President Obama in 2009.

Republicans, however, said Johnson is urging his members to break that tradition and maintain appropriate etiquette in the chamber for Biden’s address Thursday.

“He just said, ‘Let’s have the appropriate decorum,’” a third GOP lawmaker told The Hill. “We don’t need to be shrill, you know, we got to avoid that. We need to base things upon policy, upon facts, upon reality of situations. Let them do the gaslighting, let them do the blaming. I think the American people know who is responsible for the many worldwide crises that we have.”

Some lawmakers, though, are skeptical that members will be able to fight the urge to heckle Biden.

“Will they do it? Somebody asked me that earlier and I said, ‘Does the Baptist Church got a bus?’ Of course they will because he’s gonna say some very offensive things, he’s gonna attack us,” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) said.

“I think we just need to try to be a little classy,” he added. “Consider where we’re at, let the other side do that. You know, they did it to Trump, and nobody said boo, but when we do it we’re gonna get made an example of it.”

Nick Robertson contributed.

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