Kevin McCarthy doesn’t stand or applaud as Biden condemns Jan 6 riot

When President Joe Biden condemned the January 6 Capitol riot and praised the resilience of American democracy at the beginning of his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, plenty in the House chamber stood and applauded.

Kevin McCarthy, the Speaker of the House, did not.

Mr McCarthy, who took over as Speaker after a grueling battle last month, sat silently behind Mr Biden’s podium as the president referenced the failure of an insurrection that would have prevented him from ever taking office and instead kept former President Donald Trump in charge.

“Two years ago, democracy faced its greatest threat since the Civil War — and today, though bruised, our democracy remains unbowed and unbroken,” Mr Biden said.

Moments before Mr McCarthy sat stony-faced through Mr Biden’s remarks about the state of American democracy, the president joked that he looked forward to working with the new Speaker.

“Mr Speaker, I don’t want to ruin your reputation, but I look forward to working with you,” Mr Biden said.

Mr Biden called out both party’s House and Senate leaders, congratulating Sens Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, Mr McCarthy, and Rep Hakeem Jeffries of New York on their leadership positions in the new Congress. He also praised former Speaker Nancy Pelosi at her first State of the Union address since stepping aside as Democratic leader in the House.

Mr Biden has focused his speech largely on economic issues, including the tax code, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the greed of wealthy corporations — calling on Republicans to work with him to pass more bipartisan legislation in the next two years to increase competition in the market.

Mr McCarthy, the Republican leader since former Speaker Paul Ryan’s retirement in 2019, was elected Speaker after fifteen ballots in early January, overcoming stiff opposition from a number of the far right members of his caucus.