Biden Touts Progress on COVID, Economy: ‘America Is on the Move’

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President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., March 2, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

President Biden on Wednesday touted his administration’s progress on the coronavirus pandemic and the economy during his first address before a joint session of Congress.

“One hundred days since I took the oath of office—lifted my hand off our family Bible—and inherited a nation in crisis,” Biden said. “The worst pandemic in a century. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.”

“Now—after just 100 days—I can report to the nation: America is on the move again,” he said.

He noted that the administration had exceeded his promise of delivering 100 million COVID vaccinations in 100 days, saying it will have provided over 220 million shots in that time. Every American over the age of 16 is now eligible for the vaccine, he added, saying that 90 percent of people in the U.S. now live within 5 miles of a vaccination site.

However, he said there is “still more work to do to beat this virus.”

“We can’t let our guard down now,” he added.

He is also expected to use the speech to present his new American Families Plan, a $1.8 trillion bill focused on health care, child care, and education.

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The bill includes $400 billion to extend the existing child tax credit to 2025, $225 billion in childcare subsidies, $225 billion for a national paid family leave program and $200 billion for universal preschool, among other provisions.

The plan also includes an expansion of unemployment insurance programs; Senate Democrats have called for states to offer half a year of benefits at 75 percent of a worker’s former pay and to provide benefits to part-time employees and those who leave their jobs with good cause.

Additionally, the measure would see an additional $85 million put toward Pell Grants for low-income students seeking undergraduate degrees and $9 billion to train and diversify American teachers. The proposal would also provide two years of free community college to all Americans.

To pay for the sweeping plan, Biden has proposed raising the top marginal income tax rate from 37 percent to 39.6 percent and nearly doubling the capital gains rate for individuals making more than $1 million a year. Additionally, to fund his $2 trillion infrastructure package, the American Jobs Plan, Biden has proposed hiking the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent and negotiating a global minimum tax rate for multinational corporations.

Biden may struggle to find support from Republicans for both of his massive proposals as GOP lawmakers have been unsupportive of any tax increases and have been critical of the size of Biden’s infrastructure proposal, which they argue includes a number of measures that do not qualify as infrastructure.

The president will use Wednesday’s speech to celebrate the country’s progress against the coronavirus pandemic as the United States has exceeded the president’s goal of 200 million shots in his first 100 days and all Americans 16 and older are now eligible for the shots nationwide.

He may also comment on mask usage, as fully vaccinated Americans have grown weary of continued virus mitigation measures. The Centers for Disease Control on Tuesday issued new guidance that says vaccinated individuals need not don masks in outdoor settings unless they are part of a large crowd.

The speech could include a mention of the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, as more than 170,000 people were apprehended crossing the border illegally in March, breaking a 15-year record.

Biden could also use the time to advocate for the wide-ranging George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would create a national police misconduct registry and require all federal, state and local law enforcement to submit reports about complaints and discipline. It also bans federal officers from using chokeholds and no-knock warrants in drug cases and would end qualified immunity for officers, a provision that has struggled to receive GOP support.

Biden will speak before a smaller audience than would typically be present for a joint session, as only invited members of Congress will be permitted to attend due to COVID-19 restrictions implemented by the House sergeant-at-arms. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has given members of both parties an equal number of tickets, noted that the address “went from 1,600 people to 200 people,” adding that it is “a different dynamic, but it has its own worth.”

After Biden speaks, Senator Tim Scott (R., S.C.) will deliver the GOP rebuttal to the president’s speech on Wednesday night.

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