President Joe Biden’s prime-time Thursday speech on coronavirus has been lauded by supporters as a stirring call to arms, offering a light at the end of a year of hardship across the country.
Unity has been a central element of Biden’s early rhetoric, inheriting as he did a fractured political landscape scarred by four years of Donald Trump and decades of worsening partisan divide in Washington, D.C.
His unifying message may be welcomed by Americans exhausted by vicious politicking, the pandemic and systemic economic problems—but many Republican lawmakers are giving the president short shrift, particularly after his $1.9 trillion stimulus package was passed with no GOP support.
Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, the ranking member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, dismissed Biden’s call for unity as “an absolute fraud.”
“Despite the success of five previous bipartisan bills totaling $3.5 trillion, Democrats hijacked relief efforts and rejected GOP efforts in this bill to get vaccines distributed even more widely, to strengthen child poverty funding, to reopen schools, to help people return to work, and to support struggling Main Street businesses,” Brady said.
“Yet tonight’s speech was all about how President Biden solved everything. This is unity?”
He went on: “Every day since President Biden’s inauguration, he has allowed politics to divide the country, rather than honored his pledge to unify us. In a crisis, this is not the leadership we need—it’s partisanship we can do without.”
Alabama Rep. Robert Aderholt, a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, wrote on Twitter that Biden’s “actions have not lived up to his words” during his inaugural address in January. “It’s time for President Biden to end his 50 day drive to divide & become, as he pledged, ‘A President for all Americans’,” Aderholt wrote.
South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace also accused Biden of failing to foster unity on Capitol Hill in his push to pass the coronavirus relief bill, telling ABC News: “I would like to ask President Biden where was he over the last two weeks? Republicans wanted to work on a package in a bipartisan manner and it just didn’t happen.”
The president did express willingness to work with Republicans soon after coming into office, but warned that he would push ahead with his stimulus plan with or without GOP backing. With control of the White House and Congress, the Democrats are under pressure from voters to pass sweeping relief legislation after a year of economic turmoil.
Biden said on Thursday that victory over COVID-19 “depends on national unity,” which goes beyond “how politicians vote in Washington, what the loudest voices say on cable or online. Unity is what we do together as fellow Americans.
“Because if we don’t stay vigilant and the conditions change and we may have to reinstate restrictions to get back on track, please, we don’t want to do that again. We’ve made so much progress.”
President Joe Biden speaks at the White House on March 11, one year after the WHO officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images