Historic & Notable
President Biden delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress.
What he said and why it matters.
Timing: The U.S. Constitution does not specify a day or time a president must speak to Congress. However, most modern presidents deliver an address shortly after their inauguration in lieu of an official State of the Union address. President Biden waited longer than most in recent history – appearing on the eve of his first 100 days in office.
Unprecedented: First time in American history the president stood with two women behind him – Speaker of the House Pelosi (D-CA) and Vice President Harris – to deliver an address.
"…we also need to make a once-in-a-generation investment in our families and our children."
Pres. Biden announced the American Families Plan in his address, a “once-in-a-generation investment” plan with several major pillars: family support such as free childcare & up to 12 weeks of paid family (and medical) leave, an expanded child/dependent tax credit, and four additional years of public education (two free years of preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds and two years of free community college).
"For me, when I think about climate change, I think jobs."
President Biden mentioned the word ‘jobs” more than 40 times in his address. The president discussed what he described as the “largest jobs plan since World War II,” a proposal he introduced in late March. “The American Jobs Plan” includes investment in infrastructure, public transportation and green energy. The American Families Plan and the American Jobs Plan both need legislation (passed by Congress) to move from a proposal to a reality.
"I’m the first President in 40 years who knows what it means to have a son serving in a warzone."
While the president noted America’s drawdown in Afghanistan, he also spoke of the continued threat of terrorism in places like Yemen and Syria, and the importance of “allies” when confronting Iran and North Korea (both designated as state sponsors of terror by the U.S. State Dept., although the president did not use that title). BTW – the last U.S. president to have a child serve in combat was President Eisenhower.
"He’s deadly earnest about becoming the most significant, consequential nation in the world."
President Biden squarely called out China’s President Xi by name midway through his speech. These comments were not in prepared remarks, and Pres. Biden went on to say that autocrats like Xi believe democracy can’t compete in modern times. Later in the speech Pres. Biden again discussed Xi, reaffirming the Biden admin will “defend America’s interests across the board” and maintain a “strong military presence” in the region.
"We need to work together to find a consensus."
The president specifically asked for a police reform bill by May 25 (the one-year mark since George Floyd’s death. President Biden asked the American public to “root out systemic racism that plagues America.” Separately, the president also discussed immigration reform, imploring lawmakers to “end our exhausting war over immigration” by passing his proposed legislation – which he says addresses a “secure border” as well as a “pathway to citizenship.”
Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) delivered the Republican rebuttal. You can view that rebuttal and the full address to Congress on our source page.
Here’s more on The America’s Jobs Plan
Here’s on The America’s Families Plan
by Jenna Lee,