In his first address to a joint session of Congress, US President Joe Biden has laid out a vision that seeks to expand America’s social safety nets through massive plans that could amount to as much as $4 trillion in new spending. Following an infrastructure package proposal of over $2 trillion already on the table, he unveiled a separate, sweeping $1.8 trillion package proposal that would include spending on education, including free community college and childcare and hundreds of billions of dollars in tax credits aimed middle to lower income families.
Speaking on his 99th day in office, he also touted his administration’s successes particularly on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, during a speech flanked by two women for the first time in history.
President Biden spoke in a socially distanced chamber with a fraction of the 535 lawmakers in attendance due to COVID-19 protocols -flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi – the only women to ever hold those positions, with this nod to history.
He touted the $1.9 trillion American (Economic) Rescue Plan that he signed into law in March and the over 200 million vaccine doses administered before his first 100 days in office as he laid out his vision for the future that will have to pass both Houses of a divided Congress; first on his more than two trillion dollar infrastructure plan.
“For me, when I think about climate change, I think jobs. The American Jobs Plan will put engineers and construction workers to work building more energy efficient buildings and homes. Electrical workers installing 500 000 charging stations along our highways – so we can own the electric car market. Farmers planting cover crops, so they can reduce carbon dioxide in the air and get paid for doing it. There’s no reason the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing,” he says.
American Families Plan
And then he sought to try to sell the American Families Plan and the idea of affordable childcare, paid family and medical leave and free community college – arguing that it was time to make a once in a generation investment in families.
“If we were sitting down and we set a bipartisan committee together and said okay, we’re going to decide in terms of government providing free education, I wonder if we’d think as we did in the 20th Century, that 12 years is enough in the 21st Century? I doubt it. 12 years is no longer enough today to compete with the rest of the world in the 21st Century. That’s why the American Families Plan guarantees four additional years of public education for every person in America – starting as early as we can,” says President Biden.
To pay for his plans, the US President is proposing an overhaul of the US tax system by raising the top marginal tax rate for the wealthiest Americans and a near doubling of the capital gains tax for those making more than 1 million dollars annually. He also addressed the elephant in the room – the gun violence epidemic and police reform, urging Congress to pass legislation by the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death next month.
“My fellow Americans, we have to come together. To rebuild trust between law enforcement and the people they serve. To root out systemic racism in our criminal justice system. And to enact police reform in George Floyd’s name that passed the House already.”
Plans that will take bipartisan support to see the light of day – something that wasn’t lost on President Biden, using China’s resurgence globally under President Xi Jinping to make this point.
“He’s deadly earnest. They are becoming the most significant consequential nation in the world, he and others – autocrats, think that democracy can’t compete in the 21st Century with autocracies because it takes too long to get consensus,” said Biden.
On foreign policy, he promised a strong posture towards China and Russia, Iran and North Korea and again made the case for his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan later this year.
US President to address first joint sitting of Congress:
The video below previews Joe Biden’s address: