President Biden was set to head to Tampa, Florida Thursday to discuss proposals to safeguard Social Security and Medicare, and to lower the cost of health care, which were big themes during his State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Biden reportedly sees Florida—and its growing retiree population—as a chance to use Social Security and Medicare to drive a wedge between Republican lawmakers and their base of older voters who rely on these programs.
During Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, which is likely to be remembered for the shouting fest waged by some Republicans against the President, Biden received some of their loudest jeers when he said, “Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset every five years.”
Biden had turned their protests around by saying, “We all apparently agree, social security and medicare are off the books now, right?” He went on to get a standing ovation by adding, “Let’s stand up for seniors.”
On Wednesday, Biden visited a union center in Wisconsin, where he called out Republicans on their denials. His State of the Union claim had referenced a proposal by Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL)—who on Wednesday doubled down on his plan to sunset the programs every five years. “In my plan, I suggested the following: All federal legislation sunsets in five years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again,” Scott said in a statement.
In Wisconsin, Biden quoted Scott and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) who said in 2010 that it was his “objective to phase out Social Security,” and that “Medicare and Medicaid…need to be pulled up” by their “roots.”
“They sure didn’t like me calling them [out] on it,” Biden said to the union members. “A lot of Republicans, their dream is to cut Social Security, Medicare. Well, let me just say this: It’s your dream, but I’m going to, with my veto pen, make it a nightmare.”
Biden’s trips—along with a phrase he repeated several times during Tuesday’s speech: “Let’s finish the job”—are being seen as a test run for a potential 2024 reelection campaign by the President. Biden is widely expected to announce his reelection plans by April.
Polling by AP-NORC ahead of the State of the Union found that just 37% of Democrats wanted Biden to seek a second term, down from 52% in the weeks before last year’s midterm elections.
However, a CNN flash poll taken after the State of the Union found that 72% who watched it had a positive reaction to Biden’s speech.
Strategists from both parties have said the Republican outbursts during his address to Congress—and Biden’s response to them—instantly crystallized what Biden has been struggling to say, according to The New York Times.