President Biden’s State of the Union address on Thursday night was not without drama, as Wisconsin Republican Rep. Derrick Van Orden’s outburst drew a sharp rebuke from his Democratic colleague Rep. Mark Pocan.

With Van Orden shouting “Lies!” in response to Biden’s criticism of former President Trump’s handling of COVID-19, Pocan argued that the first-term lawmaker’s “constant pattern of unnecessary outbursts” indicates questionable “temperament and perhaps his soberness.”

Demand for Apology

Van Orden’s fellow Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan released a statement the following day demanding Van Orden formally apologize to Biden for his disruption.

Source: Wikimedia/WisPolitics

“It’s one thing to be a Trump fanatic; it’s another when you’re a member of Congress,” Pocan said. He expressed concern over Van Orden’s “temperament and perhaps his soberness,” referencing an incident last summer where Van Orden cursed at teenage Senate pages.

Van Orden’s Response

When questioned after the address about whether he had shouted at Biden, Van Orden coyly responded, “Who’s to say? Who knows.”

Source: Wikimedia/U.S. House of Representatives

“Tonight’s address lacked honesty and transparency, but the American people know their paychecks do not go as far as they once did, and their communities are less safe than they were three years ago,” Van Orden said.

Van Orden’s Outburst Highlights Partisan Divides in Congress

Van Orden’s behavior during such an important political event has drawn sharp rebuke from critics who argue members of Congress should show more decorum and respect, especially on the global stage.

Source: Wikimedia/Ipankonin

However, Van Orden’s supporters counter that Biden’s speech warranted an impassioned response, and Van Orden was right to call out what he saw as falsehoods. The incident highlights the deep partisan divides currently shaping politics.

Background on Van Orden’s Heated Exchanges in Congress

Van Orden has developed a reputation for his heated and confrontational exchanges since joining Congress last year.

Source: Unsplash/Louis Velazquez

His outburst during President Biden’s first State of the Union address was not the first time he has caused controversy with his behavior and comments.

Cursed Out Senate Pages

In a concerning incident last summer, Van Orden cursed out a group of teenage Senate pages in the Capitol Rotunda.

Source: Wikimedia/Matt H. Wade

The teens were on a guided tour and passed by Van Orden, who accosted them, leaving the pages visibly upset verbally. Van Orden later apologized for his “poor attempt at humor,” but the incident raised questions about his temperament and judgment.

Demanded Apology from General

At a classified briefing in September, Van Orden demanded an apology from a U.S. Army general over a diversity and inclusion training program.

Source: Unsplash/Scandinavian Backlash

The lawmaker argued the program was too “woke” and “politically correct.” His combative questioning of the general was described as “borderline insubordinate” by others in attendance.

Spread COVID Misinformation

Van Orden has frequently downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and spread misinformation about public health measures like mask-wearing and social distancing.

Source: Unsplash/Glen Carrie

He railed against safety restrictions in Wisconsin, calling them “tyrannical” and “unconstitutional.” Public health experts argue rhetoric like Van Orden’s has undermined efforts to control the spread of the virus.

Trumpian and Aggressive Style

Van Orden’s colleagues have voiced concerns over his “Trumpian” style and worry his aggressive and confrontational manner will make it difficult to work with him.

Source: Anthony Behar

However, Van Orden remains popular with staunch conservatives and supporters of former President Trump. His outspoken and combative persona seems to resonate with that base.

Van Orden Deflects Criticism

Van Orden avoided directly addressing Pocan’s criticism or confirming he had shouted at the President. Instead, he released a statement on social media slamming Biden’s speech as “out of touch.”

Source: Unsplash/Dan Burton

Van Orden said Biden lacked “honesty and transparency” in discussing issues like the border crisis, government spending, and foreign policy. The statement did not mention his alleged outburst or address Pocan’s demands for an apology.

Criticism of Biden in Van Orden’s Post-SOTU Statement

Van Orden’s statement following Biden’s address was scathing in its criticism of the President and his administration.

Source: Wikimedia/The White House

According to Van Orden, Biden’s speech showed how “out of touch he is” with the struggles of everyday Americans.

Van Orden’s Criticism of The Southern Border

Although Biden’s speech focused primarily on domestic issues, Van Orden suggested the President has also failed on foreign policy.

Source: Unsplash/Barbara Zandoval

Van Orden attacked Biden over his handling of the situation at the US-Mexico border, arguing that Biden has created an “immigration crisis” through policies that encourage illegal border crossings. Van Orden claimed that Biden’s policies have made U.S. communities “less safe.”

Government Spending and Inflation

The Wisconsin Republican aimed Biden’s calls for trillions in new government spending, which Van Orden believes is fueling rising inflation, eroding Americans’ wages and standard of living.

Source: Unsplash/engin akyurt

“Tonight’s address lacked honesty and transparency, but the American people know their paychecks do not go as far as they once did,” Van Orden said.

Biden’s Foreign Policy

Although Biden’s speech focused primarily on domestic issues, Van Orden suggested that the President had also failed in foreign policy.

Source: Unsplash/Phil Bae BAESfOTO

While Van Orden did not specify which foreign policy issues he believes Biden has mishandled, Republicans have frequently criticized Biden’s approach to China, Iran, and Afghanistan, among other areas.

Impact of Hyper-Partisanship on Congressional Decorum

The partisan divide in Congress seems to be growing wider, and instances of breaches in decorum are becoming more frequent. Representatives on opposing sides of the aisle quickly call out perceived slights or uncivil behavior from the other party.

Source: Unsplash/Darren Halstead

This hyper-partisanship threatens to damage relationships in Congress and undermine the institution. When a member of Congress acts out or interrupts during official proceedings, it reflects poorly on that individual and Congress. Outbursts during presidential addresses are unbecoming of elected officials.