WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden addressed Congress for the first time on Wednesday night and made the case for new programs that will improve the government’s role in Americans’ lives.
Biden addressed Congress for the first time as President on the eve of his 100th day in office against the backdrop of health and economic crises that he has spent his first few months in office trying to combat.
“I can report to the nation: America is on the move again. Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength. Life can knock us down,” Biden said. “But in America, we never stay down.”
Here are five key moments from Biden’s speech:
A historic moment for women
In a historic moment, there were two women sitting behind him and Biden made sure to make note of that before beginning his remarks. Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman to hold the office and alongside Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the first woman elected as speaker in 2007.
“Madame Speaker. Madame Vice President. No president has ever said those words from this podium. And it’s about time,” Biden said.
The two women greeted each other with an elbow bump before Biden arrived. Both women wore a mask during the entirety of the President’s speech.
Biden wants to move things and fast
After more than 40 years and two previously failed presidential bids, Biden finally got his time in the spotlight.
“It’s good to be back,” he said.
The President did not apologize for passing a $1.9 trillion stimulus package without a single Republican vote. He insisted it was needed and urged lawmakers to quickly pass the next set of bills.”
We welcome ideas,” he said of the willingness to work with Republicans. “So, let’s get to work. I wanted to lay out to Congress my plan before we got into the deep discussion. I’d like to meet with those who have ideas that are different. We welcome ideas. But the rest of the world isn’t waiting for us. I just want to be clear: from my perspective, doing nothing is not an option. Look, we can’t be so busy competing with one another and forget the competition we have with the rest of the world to win the 21st century.”
Biden called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act by the first anniversary of Floyd’s death next month. The President and his advisers are well aware of the challenges to get the bills passed but he called on Congress to come together.
Biden says bigger government is better for Americans
The central theme around Biden’s speech — and much of his presidency to date — is when government is working right, it can only benefit the American people.
“We have to prove democracy still works. That our government still works — and can deliver for the people. In our first 100 days together, we have acted to restore the people’s faith in our democracy to deliver,” Biden said. “We’re vaccinating the nation. We’re creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. We’re delivering real results people can see and feel in their own lives.”
Former President Bill Clinton argued in 1996 “the era of big government is over” in his State of the Union address. However, Biden is now saying the exact opposite: now is the time for big government to return.
“Scientific breakthroughs took us to the Moon and now to Mars, discovered vaccines, and gave us the Internet and so much more,” he said. “These are the investments we make together, as one country, and that only government’s in a position to make.”
Biden says tax hike on wealthy is “fiscally responsible”
The President urged Congress to raise taxes on the rich and corporations, saying it is now time for them to pay their fair share.
He hit out at former President Donald Trump’s tax cut for the wealthy and committed to using that tax hike to pay for his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, a package that includes paid family leave, free community college, and subsidized child care.
“I’m not looking to punish anyone,” he said. “What I’ve proposed is fair. It’s fiscally responsible.”
Once again, Biden committed to not raising taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year.
“I will not impose any tax increases on people making less than $400,000. It’s time for corporate America and the wealthiest 1% of Americans to pay their fair share,” he said.
Ending the war on immigration
Immigration is one of the main issues that has casted a shadow over Biden’s first 100 days in office as his administration has struggled to deal with the surge of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
However, Wednesday night he didn’t focus on the border challenges his administration faced. He shifted focus to Congress to pass his immigration legislation, which would create a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million people living in the United States without citizenship.
“If you actually want to solve the problem – I have sent you a bill, take a close look at it,” Biden said. “The country supports immigration reform. Let’s act.”