Joe Biden Gives First Joint Address to Congress, Laying Out Vision on COVID, Jobs and More
That was the word, said aloud and referenced as subtext, that often underlined President Joe Biden's inaugural joint address before Congress on Wednesday night, as he prepares to mark the milestone of his first 100 days in office.
"America is moving. Moving forward. And we can't stop now," he said early in his roughly hour-long speech.
"I can report to the nation: America is on the move again," Biden, 78, said. "Turning peril into possibility, crisis into opportunity, setback into strength. Life can knock us down, but in America, we never stay down. In America, we always get up — and today, that's what we're doing: America is rising anew."
Because of the breakdown in Congress, Biden's remarks drew repeated applause from the Democratic majority among the slimmed-down number of lawmakers in attendance.
The Republican minority, whom Biden will need to pass some of his priorities, sat largely silent as he alternately addressed, cajoled and sometimes ribbed them. (As when, with a small laugh, he encouraged Congress to pass an increase to the minimum wage.)
And while Biden repeatedly invoked the promise of legislative actions in several key areas — on guns, on immigration reform, on voting rights — he spoke emphatically of what he said he had accomplished already, in three months in office.
Though he never said predecessor Donald Trump's name, much of Biden's speech's argument drew a contrast with the final year of Trump's term in office.
"One-hundred days ago, America's house was on fire," he said, saying he "inherited a nation in crisis: the worst pandemic in a century, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War" — referring to the U.S. Capitol attack by a throng of Trump supporters.
As he spoke, Biden was flanked by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris. It was the first two women had held those positions in the country's history. First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff watched from the audience in the Capitol.
Wearing a face mask before and after delivering his remarks to a socially-distanced audience of about 200 guests, President Biden acknowledged the difficulties of the past year, while offering a promise that, in his words, more normalcy lie ahead.
He extolled the work of vaccine distribution and of his already-passed COVID-19 relief plan, and he urged support for two more sweeping proposals: the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, bills to address infrastructure, social services, childcare, education and healthcare, even as the GOP says the spending would be inefficient and counterproductive and too greatly expand the government.
Not so, said Biden.
"We welcome ideas, but the rest of the world isn't waiting for us. Doing nothing is not an option," he said Wednesday night. "We can't be so busy competing with each other that we forget the competition is with the rest of the world to win the 21st century. To win that competition for the future, we also need to make a once-in-a-generation investment in our families — in our children."
Prior to his speech, Biden reportedly met with Capitol staff who had been on site the day of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Reiterating his characterization of gun violence as an epidemic, Biden also used his remarks to again call on Congress to reinstate a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and to pass two bills that would strengthen background checks.
Earlier this month, Biden announced a series of executive actions related to gun violence during a press conference held at the White House Rose Garden. The orders he announced came after recent mass shootings in California, Colorado and Georgia.
In his joint address — which was rebutted by Republicans afterward, as is tradition for the minority party — Biden also discussed police reform, one week after the guilty verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.
Remembering how he met with Floyd's daughter last year, Biden called on Congress to reach a bipartisan consensus to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act by the one-year anniversary of Floyd's killing.