House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday said he will not tear up President Biden’s State of the Union address like Speaker Nancy Pelosi did at President Trump’s big speech to Congress in 2020.
Mr. McCarthy, who as speaker will sit behind Mr. Biden during the speech, also broke with Mrs. Pelosi by seeking to tamp down political division ahead of the event. He said Republicans are focused on policy rather than partisan drama.
“I don’t believe in the theatrics of tearing up speeches,” Mr. McCarthy, California Republican, said in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “I respect the other side. I can disagree on policy, but I want to make sure this country is stronger, economically sound, energy independent, secure and accountable.”
Mrs. Pelosi’s feud with Mr. Trump was on full display in 2020 when she sat behind the president and conspicuously ripped apart a copy of his prepared remarks after the speech.
Vice President Mike Pence accused Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, of attempting to make the speech “about her.”
Both Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Biden have, in recent weeks, worked to bridge the political divide in Washington despite engaging in high-stakes negotiations over raising the government’s debt ceiling.
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Last week, Mr. McCarthy met with Mr. Biden for one-on-one negotiations at the White House capping weeks of partisan back-and-forth over Republican demands that the White House and Democratic-led Senate agree to negotiate spending levels before the GOP-run House raises the nation’s borrowing limit.
The Treasury Department began taking “extraordinary measures” in January to stave off default when the government hit its $31.4 trillion debt limit. Those emergency measures are expected to give the government enough breathing room to cover day-to-day expenses until the summer.
Mr. Biden initially balked at Mr. McCarthy’s demands for negotiations. He called on Congress to raise the debt ceiling “without conditions” and accused Republicans of using the full faith and credit of the nation as a bargaining chip in their quest to cut vital programs such as Social Security.
Mr. McCarthy has said that Social Security and Medicare are off the table in the debt-reduction talks.
Mr. McCarthy said after meeting with Mr. Biden that he could “see where we can find common ground” on spending as he addressed reporters outside of the White House.
The following day, Mr. Biden promised to work with Mr. McCarthy in a pledge of bipartisanship at the annual National Prayer Breakfast.
“Let’s start treating each other with respect,” the president said. “That’s what Kevin and I are going to do. I think we’ve got to do it across the board.”
In a preview of Mr. Biden’s remarks on Tuesday, administration officials said the president will focus on his “unity agenda” aimed at reassuring voters that both sides can work together to get things done.
The unity agenda is a bundle of proposed actions with four prongs: beating the opioid epidemic, tackling mental health issues, supporting veterans and ending cancer.
“These are issues that affect all Americans in red states and blue states and one where the American people are counting on our elected officials, no matter their party, to come together and do big things,” White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield told reporters.
• Jeff Mordock contributed to this story.