Biden urges unity, tells McConnell ‘we really are friends’

President Joe Biden shakes hands with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) after addressing the National Prayer Breakfast at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, February 3, 2022.
Greg Nash

President Biden on Thursday appealed for unity during the National Prayer Breakfast, which was held in-person for the first time in two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The president’s speech focused largely on the need for lawmakers and the nation as a whole to get to know one another and get past political divisions, which he called “palpable.”

“Unity doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything, but unity is where enough of us believe in a core of basic things,” Biden said. “The common good, the general welfare. A faith in the United States of America.”

Biden spoke for roughly 20 minutes, recalling his own time in the Senate and recognizing a number of senators who were in the room for the event. 

“Mitch, I don’t want to hurt your reputation, but we really are friends,” Biden said, addressing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “And that is not an epiphany we’re having at the moment. You’re a man of your word, you’re a man of honor. Thank you for being my friend.”

Biden cautioned that the divisions are noticeable around the world but added the rest of the globe is looking to the U.S. to see whether it can overcome its problems.

The president bemoaned how lawmakers no longer spend as much quality time together as they did when he served in the Senate, when he said senators frequently ate lunch together and were able to see past political disagreements to get along.

“I just think that when you learn that another man or woman, you fly on a [congressional delegation] and you learn that they have a kid with a problem with alcoholism, you learn that they have a daughter who has breast cancer. It’s hard to dislike the person,” Biden said. “And so one of the things I pray for, and I mean it, is we sort of get back to the place … that we really know each other.”

The president also made note of Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), who is recovering from a stroke, saying he was praying for a quick recovery.

Thursday’s prayer breakfast was the first Biden attended as president. He is a devout Catholic, regularly attending mass in Washington, D.C., or in Wilmington, Del., during weekend visits.

The Republican National Committee used the occasion of Biden’s speech to attack his agenda, citing his pro-abortion rights views and accusing him of infringing on religious liberty.

“Americans of all faiths are going to vote to reject Biden’s extreme, divisive agenda at the ballot box this November,” chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.

Tags Ben Ray Lujan Joe Biden Mitch McConnell National Prayer Breakfast Ronna McDaniel

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