About half of Americans who watched President Joe Biden’s maiden address to a joint session of the US Congress on Wednesday night had a very positive reaction to the speech. According to a survey conducted by the CNN, 71% said they walked away feeling more optimistic about the country’s direction.
The Congress chambers was upbeat as the president unveiled his administration’s agenda for infrastructure renewal and sweeping reforms in the justice and immigration sectors amid intermittent standing ovation.
The agenda includes a $2 trillion infrastructure plan and a $1.8 trillion plan for families, children and students.
Biden was unequivocal about his administration’s stance on human rights.
“No responsible American president can remain silent when basic human rights are violated. A president has to represent the essence of our country. America is an idea – unique in the world. We are all created equal. It’s who we are. We cannot walk away from that principle.”
He called for expeditious action on the police reforms initiated in George Floyd’s name.
“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. I know the Republicans have their own ideas and are engaged in productive discussions with Democrats.
We need to work together to find a consensus. Let’s get it done next month, by the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death. The country supports this reform. Congress should act.”
Below are some highlights of the address, courtesy CNN.
On getting the Covid-19 vaccine administered:
“After I promised we would get 100 million Covid-19 shots into people’s arms in 100 days, we will have provided over 220 million Covid shots in those 100 days,” Biden said. “We’re marshaling every federal resource. We’re gotten vaccinations to nearly 40,000 pharmacies and over 700 community health centers where the poorest of the poor can be reached. We’re setting up community vaccination sites, developing mobile units to get the hard to reach communities. Today, 90% of Americans now live within five miles of a vaccination site.”
On police violence:
“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 and that passed the House already,” Biden said. “I know Republicans have their own ideas and are engaged in a very productive discussion with Democrats in the Senate. We need to work together to find a consensus, but let’s get it done next month by the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death.”
On gun violence:
“I need not tell anyone this, but gun violence has become an epidemic in America,” Biden said. “Look, I don’t want to become more confrontational. We need more Senate Republicans to join the overall majority of Democratic colleagues and close the loopholes required in background check purchases of guns. We need a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”
On taxing the rich:
“I will not impose any tax increase on people making less than $400,000. But it’s time for corporate America and the wealthiest 1% of Americans to begin to pay their fair share. Just their fair share,” Biden said.
On bipartisanship over his sweeping infrastructure plan:
“Vice President Harris and I met regularly in the Oval Office with Democrats and Republicans to discuss the American Jobs Plan. And I applaud a group of Republican Senators who just put forward their own proposal,” Biden said, referring to a proposal unveiled by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito last week.
On funding research to fight diseases like Alzheimers:
“Here’s what it would do. It would have a singular purpose, to develop breakthroughs to prevent, detect, and treat diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer. I’ll still never forget when we passed the cancer proposal in the last year as vice president, almost $9 million going to NIH. You’ll excuse the point of personal privilege. I’ll never forget you standing, Mitch, and naming it after my deceased son. It meant a lot. But so many of us have deceased sons, daughters, and relatives who died of cancer. I can think of no more worthy investment. I know of nothing that is more bipartisan. So let’s end cancer as we know it. It’s within our power. It’s within our power to do it,” Biden said.
On getting Americans back to work:
“Electrical workers installing 500,000 charging stations along our highways. Farmers planting cover crops, so they can reduce carbon dioxide in the air and get paid for doing it,” Biden said. “There’s no reason the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing … Two million women have dropped out of the workforce during this pandemic. Two million. And too often, because they couldn’t get the care they needed to care for their child or care for an elderly parent who needs help.”
On troops in Afghanistan:
“We have service members in Afghanistan who were not yet born on 9/11,” Biden said. “War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multi-generational undertaking of nation-building.”
On Trump’s 2017 tax cut plan:
“It’s estimated to be billions of dollars by think tanks of the left, right, and center. I’m not looking to punish anybody. But I will not add a tax burden, additional tax burden on the middle class of this country. They’re already paying enough. I believe what I propose is fair. Fiscally responsible. And it raises revenue to pay for the plans I propose and will create millions of jobs that will grow the economy and enhance our financial standing in the country,” he said.
On trickle-down economics:
“My fellow Americans, trickle-down, trickle-down economics has never worked. It’s time to grow the economy from the bottom and the middle out,” the President said.
“Let’s end our exhausting war over immigration. For more than 30 years, politicians have talked about immigration reform and done nothing about it. It’s time to fix it,” Biden said.
Biden captured the historic moment of having two women behind the president while delivering a speech to the nation vividly.
“Madam Speaker, Madam Vice President,” Biden said, “no President has ever said those words from this podium. No President has ever said those words. And it’s about time.”
Not everyone in Congress was impressed by the Biden Agenda. Expectedly, Republican senator, Tim Scott, reacting on behalf of the opposition party, said Trump’s administration was making headway in the fight against Covid-19 and accused Biden of sowing division in Congress.
Senator Scott claimed that the tide was turning on Covid-19 when Biden took office.
“Last year, under Republican leadership, we passed five bipartisan Covid packages,” Scott said. “Congress supported our hospitals, saved our economy, and funded Operation Warp Speed, delivering vaccines in record time.” He argued that Democrats decided to “go it alone” with their $2 trillion Covid relief package, which he criticized in part because it did not include a requirement to reopen schools.
“Covid brought Congress together five times. This administration pushed us apart,” Scott said.
You may read the full text of the president’s address here
Or watch the video here: