President Biden gives his first congressional address next Wednesday at which he is expected to tout the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, his successful vaccine rollout, job growth and the $2 trillion jobs plan that he has proposed.
Biden delayed his first congressional address, which will allow him to do what most new Presidents can’t – brag about the accomplishments of his first 100 days in office. For Members of Congress and the general public, it will be an opportunity to hear Biden’s defense of his ambitious infrastructure, climate change and racial justice proposals.
For the first time in history, two women – Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi – will sit behind a President giving a State of the Union address. The event also will be different because COVID-19 precautions will limit who is allowed to watch the address in the House chamber. That suggest there may be less applause and boos, as well as fewer, if any, special guests to introduce in the presidential gallery.
Biden will step to the podium next week, it will be as a President who has defied his political reputation as a compromise-seeking moderate. “I did not expect him to be as big and bold as he’s been,” says South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn, who played a critical role in reviving Biden’s flagging presidential campaign last spring.
Earlier this week, Biden pledged to slash US carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030, a move in line with his decision to rejoin and reinvigorate the Paris Climate Accord. Biden’s Climate Envoy John Kerry negotiated an agreement with China that is intended to put the world’s two largest carbon emitters in the lead to reduce emissions.
Biden should earn applause for meeting his aggressive target of 200 million coronavirus vaccine doses administered and for stronger job recovery than predicted in his first 100 days, amid a warning America is not out of the pandemic woods just yet.
“I did not expect him to be as big and bold as he’s been,” says South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn, who played a critical role in reviving Biden’s flagging presidential campaign last spring.
Biden will point out the broad popularity of provisions in the American Rescue Plan, including additional direct stimulus payments, and his American Jobs Plan, which calls for childcare benefits, universal pre-K education, paid family and medical leave, free community college and nutritional aid, as well as for investments in roads, bridges, waterways, water systems and broadband expansion.
During his address, Biden is expected to unveil his tax proposals that raise taxes for the richest Americans to pay for his jobs plan. Leaks indicate Biden will propose doubling the capital gains tax rate for individuals with taxable income of $1 million or more. He has previously hinted at a corporate tax hike.
Other State of the Union topics should include Biden’s proposals for police reforms and his announced plan to withdraw most US troops from Afghanistan by September 11. He also is likely to address immigration policy and respond to criticism of his handling of a surge of immigrants at the southern border and failure to move fast enough to reverse President Trump’s policy on refugees.
The GOP rebuttal speech will be delivered by South Carolina Senator Tim Scott. There also will be a response on behalf of Democratic progressives given by New York Congressman Jamaal Bowman.
Congressional observers note Biden won’t give a State of the Union address until 2022, after he has been in office for more than one year. Whatever the speech is called and despite declining viewership, it may fetch the largest audience Biden reaches in first year in office. He appears ready to maximize the opportunity.