President Joe Biden on Wednesday night delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress on the eve of his 100th day in office, attempting to paint the future of the nation as that of hope, strength, and resilience amid the ongoing CCP virus pandemic while calling on lawmakers to back his radical proposals, including on infrastructure, election reform, police reform, and gun control.
Biden claimed to have on Jan. 20 inherited a nation that was “in crisis” under his predecessor former President Donald Trump, giving examples such as the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic and the resultant economic fallout across the country. The CCP virus is commonly known as the novel coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China. Biden also cited the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol, which he dubbed “the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.”
“America is on the move again … After 100 days of rescue and renewal, America is ready for a takeoff in my view,” Biden said.
Biden continued to urge people to get vaccinated and said that the administration has set up vaccination sites in more than 40,000 pharmacies across the nation, as well as various community vaccination sites and mobile units in hard-to-reach communities. Last week, the administration surpassed Biden’s goal of administering 200 million COVID-19 shots by his 100th day in office.
The president in his speech reviewed what he called his early accomplishments, and asserted that the economy was on the mend under his watch.
He celebrated the passage of the $1.9 trillion pandemic stimulus bill, which cleared the Senate without the support of a single Republican. He also praised the American Jobs Plan, a $2.3 trillion infrastructure package unveiled earlier this month, calling it a “blue-collar blueprint to build America.” He said that independent experts estimate it will add millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in economic growth in the United States for “years to come.”
“These are good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced. Nearly 90 percent of the infrastructure jobs created in the American Jobs Plan don’t require a college degree. 75 percent don’t require an associate’s degree.”
Biden also called on lawmakers to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act for equal pay, and pass the $15 minimum wage.
Republicans have criticized both the pandemic relief bill and the infrastructure proposal as having little to do with the pandemic or infrastructure. Democrats argue that pushing the pandemic stimulus through without Republican support was necessary to help Americans struggling with the economic impacts of the pandemic.
The president took the opportunity to praise his latest proposal, the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which if passed, would expand access to community college and preschool, as well as child care and healthcare for families.
He furthermore signaled he would seek to work with Congress to massively expand the reach of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, in an effort he hopes would help reduce drug prices.
To pay for his radical proposals, the president is proposing an increase in corporate taxes. “We’re going to reform corporate taxes so they pay their fair share—and help pay for the public investments … We take the top tax bracket for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans—those making $400,000 or more—back up to 39.6 percent,” he said.
Among other issues, Biden said that Americans have to “root out systemic racism in our criminal justice system” in part by enacting police reform that the Democratic-led House narrowly passed in March.
Biden also sought action on gun control, calling for background checks, and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
He also pushed for Senate Republicans to join in passing his immigration proposal, which would provide a path to legal status, permanent residency, and citizenship for illegal immigrants. The immigration bill has little public Republican support. House Democrats in March passed two bills that would advance parts of Biden’s pro-immigration agenda.
Biden also called on Congress to pass the H.R. 1 “For the People Act” election reform bill, which would transfer authority over how elections are administered from states to the federal government, and make permanent many voting rules that critics say are vulnerable to election and voter fraud.
Biden has faced criticism for delaying his first address, in contrast to his predecessors. Trump delivered his first speech to Congress on Feb. 28, 2017, roughly two months relatively earlier than Biden from the day of having taken office.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott delivered the Republican party’s response to Biden’s first joint address on Wednesday night. In a Twitter statement that immediately followed Biden’s address, Scott took aim at the policies outlined by the president to the nation.
“The beauty of the American Dream is that families get to define it for themselves,” he said. “We should be expanding options and opportunities for all families—not throwing money at certain issues because Democrats think they know best.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) meanwhile described the president’s agenda as “dead on arrival,” saying on Twitter that Biden promised “higher taxes, crushing debt, and open borders.”
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meanwhile criticized every policy that Biden proposed during his address, saying that they call for a “radical socialist agenda.”
“So far, President Biden has successfully outlined a radical, socialist agenda for the next 4 years. That should trouble every freedom-loving American,” Pompeo said on Twitter.
“Nearly every policy President Biden has proposed tonight involves bigger government and higher taxes,” Pompeo added. “This does nothing but HURT the American worker.”
Mimi Nguyen Ly and Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.