After 36 years in the Senate and serving as Vice President for eight years, Joe Biden is no stranger to State of the Union addresses in the Congress. But on Wednesday night, on the eve of 100 days of his presidency, Biden finally got the chance to deliver his first speech as a US President to a joint session of Congress.
A President’s First Address Like no Other
In wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the House of Representatives chamber saw a smaller crowd. Unlike the 1600 people typically present during a presidential speech to Congress, only 200 people were allowed to attend in person this year.
The entirety of the Cabinet is usually present for this address. This year, only the secretaries of state and defense were present. Rest everyone watched from home. Everyone present in the chamber wore masks and were seated socially distanced. The attendees sat three seats away from the center aisle Biden walked down.
Historic Moment For Women in Politics
For the first time in history, Americans saw two women seated behind a US president while making an address to a joint session of Congress. The first woman Vice President, Kamala Harris stood next to Nancy Pelosi, the first woman elected as Speaker of the House in 2007. The two women greeted each other with an elbow bump as they arrived.
“Madam speaker, madam vice president,” Biden said when he arrived at the podium. “No president has ever said those words from this podium, and it’s about time!”
The image of the President, flanked by these two women on both sides, created a powerful and inspirational image for young girls – and boys – across the country last night.
Successful Vaccination Drive
Joe Biden entered his presidency amidst a pandemic. The biggest challenge was to stop the rising number of cases and implementing an accelerated vaccinated drive across the country. In his 99 days of office, the Biden administration has “provided over 220 million COVID shots in 100 days.”
“Senior deaths from COVID-19 are down 80% since January,” Biden said. He noted that only 1% of seniors had been vaccinated when he was sworn in, and now over 70% are fully protected. Biden also added that over half of all American adults have received at least one dose.
“Today, 90% of Americans now live within 5 miles of a vaccination site,” he said, urging everyone over the age of 16 to get a vaccine.
“Go get vaccinated, America, go and get the vaccination. They’re available,” the President said.
$1.8 Trillion American Families Plan
In his address to the members of Congress, Biden made the push for a “once in a generation” investment in the future of America and American people. He took this opportunity to make the case for his newly announced American Families Plan.
The ambitious $1.8 trillion plan calls for a national paid leave program, subsidized child care, universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, as well as two years of free community college, and $800 billion in tax credits for families and workers.
Addressing how the massive investment could be paid for, Biden said, “It’s time for corporate America and the wealthiest 1% of Americans to pay their fair share. Just pay their fair share.”
“I’m not looking to punish anyone,” he said. “What I’ve proposed is fair. It’s fiscally responsible.”
Biden once again reiterated his pledge that he would not raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year. “They’re already paying enough,” he said.