President Joe Biden focused his wide-ranging joint session address Wednesday night on expanding jobs and opportunities for American families.
The annual message featured several differences from past years due to the coronavirus pandemic, with just 200 members of Congress attending, no designated survivor named, and took place 99 days after Biden’s inauguration.
It was also the first time two females sat behind the president. Biden addressed this during his opening statements, pointing out that “no president has ever said those words” upon introducing Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Biden opened Wednesday’s speech by bringing Americans back to Inauguration Day. He described inheriting “a nation in crisis,” citing the pandemic, an economic crisis and an “attack on our democracy” before continuing on to highlight his plans for the future and what he’s accomplished thus far.
“America is on the move again,” Biden declared. “Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength.”
Getting Over The COVID-19 Pandemic
Biden touted his administration’s vaccination efforts, though he did not credit former President Donald Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed” during the speech. He pointed out his original promise of delivering 100 million vaccine shots in 100 days and highlighted the fact that the administration has exceeded that goal.
The president also called on Americans to get vaccinated and reminded the country that anyone over the age of 16 is now eligible for the shot.
“When I was sworn in, less than 1% of seniors were fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” Biden said. “100 days later, nearly 70% of seniors are fully protected. Senior deaths from COVID-19 are down 80% since January. Down 80%. And, more than half of all adults in America have gotten at least one shot.”
Biden brought up Americans he had spoken with throughout the pandemic, and painted pictures of the changes he said are coming about because of the vaccine. He cautioned against celebrating too early, saying that “there’s still more work to do to beat this virus” and urged the country not to let their “guard down.”
“Parents are seeing smiles on their kids’ faces as they go back to school because teachers and school bus drivers, cafeteria workers have been vaccinated,” Biden said.
“But tonight, I can say because of you — the American people – our progress these past 100 days against one of the worst pandemics in history is one of the greatest logistical achievements our country has ever seen,” he continued.
The American Jobs Plan And The American Families Plan
Biden spoke about two big infrastructure plans – the American Jobs Plan (AJP) and the American Families Plan (AFP) – aimed at responding to the pandemic, stimulating the economy and focusing on “human infrastructure.”
The AJP was unveiled earlier in April and the administration previously touted how many jobs it would create, though the numbers were overstated by roughly 600%. On Wednesday, Biden dubbed this roughly $2.25 trillion plan “a once-in-a-generation investment in America itself” and “the largest jobs plan since World War II.”
“The American Jobs Plan creates jobs replacing 100% of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines so every American, so every child – can turn on the faucet and be certain to drink clean water,” Biden exclaimed, prompting applause from the audience.
Biden highlighted that this plan aims to help families and create jobs for those “caregivers with better wages and better benefits.” The AJP also focuses improving America’s transportation and buildings while allocating huge amounts of money for causes aimed at Biden’s climate change goals.
The president addressed this portion of the plan on Wednesday, too, claiming that “the most important word when it comes to meeting the climate crisis” is jobs. He pushed the idea that the AJP is aimed at getting Americans to buy products made in America and urged lawmakers to pass a $15 minimum wage.
BIDEN: “For too long, we have failed to use the most important word when it comes to meeting the climate crisis: jobs.” pic.twitter.com/XCJEB4S40Z
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) April 29, 2021
Biden introduced, as expected, a new plan during Wednesday’s speech. The AFP is estimated to cost around $1.8 trillion and, like the AJP, will spark a raise on taxes for the wealthiest Americans. He promised not to impose tax increased on those making less than $400,000.
“We’re going to get rid of the loopholes that allow Americans who make more than $1 million a year and pay a lower rate on their capital gains than Americans who receive a paycheck,” Biden explained, later calling it “fair” and “fiscally responsible.”
“Look, I’m not out to punish anyone,” he added. “But I will not add an additional tax burden of the middle class of this country. They’re already paying enough.”
The proposal, according to the administration, aims to help lower and middle-class families by increasing tax credits for those needing child care, expanding Affordable Care Act tax credits noted in the ARP and much more. (RELATED: What’s In Biden’s $1.8 Trillion ‘American Families Plan’ And What Didn’t Make The Final Cut?)
Biden focused on how the plan will affect families during his speech, bringing up First Lady Jill Biden’s job as a teacher’s thoughts about improving education in the process.
He highlighted that the plan aims to add two years of free community college and two years of universal pre-K for every child three and four years old. Biden also said the AFP focuses on four challenges in America: Access to a good education, access to affordable and quality child care, paid family and medical leave and more money for families.
During this speech, the president called for extending the Child Tax Credit through the end of 2025 and pushed for permanently lowering health care premiums for those Americans operating through the Affordable Care Act.
In promoting these hefty landmark spending proposals, Biden made sure to frame it around competing with China.
“We’re in a competition with China and other countries to win the 21st Century,” Biden said. “We have to do more than just build back. We have to build back better.”
China And Russia
Biden repeatedly referred back to China throughout his speech and at one point spoke directly about his conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He claimed that the policies he laid out also ties into “a foreign policy” that “benefits the middle class” and said he aims to ensure that “every nation plays by the same rules in the global economy.”
“In my discussion with President Xi, I told him that we welcome the competition. We’re not looking for conflict,” Biden said. “But I made absolutely clear that we will defend America’s interests across the board. America will stand up to unfair trade practices that undercut American workers and American industries, like subsidies for state-to-state owned enterprises and the theft of American technologies and intellectual property.”
Biden also promised that America will continue to have a military presence in the Indo–Pacific in an attempt “to prevent conflict.”
“America will not back away from our commitments. A commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms and to our alliances,” he added. “I pointed out to him, No responsible American president could remain silent when basic human rights are being so blatantly violated. An American president has to represent the essence of what our country stands for.”
In regards to Russia, the president said he has told President Vladimir Putin that “their actions will have consequences if they turn out to be true.”
Biden also focused on the administration’s plan with other countries and assured citizens that he plans to end “the forever War in Afghanistan.” He ended this portion of his speech by claiming that white supremacy is the “most lethal terrorist threat” to America.
Biden spent time addressing police reform in a speech that came on the heels of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin’s conviction in the death of George Floyd. The president’s comments about this subject also came just after the Department of Justice announced sweeping investigations into both the Minneapolis Police Department and the Louisville Police Department.
He repeatedly referenced Floyd and his family, calling on lawmakers to pass the police reform bill in his name. Biden said this is “a real chance to root out systemic racism that plagues” America.
“We need to work together to find a consensus,” Biden said. “Let’s get it done next month, by the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death.”
Biden addressed the Hate Crimes Act to protect Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the Equality Act, pushing for both to be passed as soon as possible. The Equality Act has sparked much debate due to its potential effects on biological female athletes.
Biden called gun violence “an epidemic in America” and began this portion of his speech by referencing the Violence Against Women Act, saying he wants it re-authorized. The president noted that he wants “ghost guns” banned and called on Congress to act, specifically pushing Senate Republicans to join in the efforts.
“I will do everything in my power to protect the American people from this epidemic of gun violence,” he said. “But it’s time for Congress to act as well.”
The president said the administration isn’t “changing the Constitution,” but rather just “being reasonable.”
BIDEN: “No amendment to the constitution is absolute. You can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.” pic.twitter.com/JliS8DxJrb
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) April 29, 2021
Biden, towards the end of his speech, briefly addressed the much–discussed topic of immigration amid a border crisis. He called for an end to the “exhausting war on immigration” and said he has “absolute confidence” that Harris, who was tapped to lead the efforts at the border, will get the job done. Harris has been criticized for not yet visiting the border.
“We also have to get at the root of the problem of why people are fleeing to our southern border from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador,” Biden said. “The violence. The corruption. The gangs. The political instability. Hunger. Hurricanes. Earthquakes.”
Biden praised immigrants and again addressed Congress, urging them to “secure protection for the Dreamers.” He called for permanent protections for migrants listed as being on temporary protected status, as well.
“Immigrants have done so much for America during the pandemic – as they have throughout our history,” the president said.
Jan. 6 Riot
As expected, the president made some comments about the Jan. 6 riot, which saw some supporters of former President Donald Trump storm the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers were voting to certify the election. Biden said the country has to prove to “America’s adversaries” that “they are wrong.”
Wednesday marked the first time Congress met for a joint session since the Jan. 6 riot.
“It’s never been a good bet to bet against America,” Biden said as he wrapped up his speech. “And it still isn’t. We’re the United States of America. There’s not a single thing, nothing beyond our capacity. We can do whatever we set our minds to, if we do it together.”