President Joe Biden delivers first address to Congress on April 28, 2021. By MELINA MARA/WASHINGTON POST/VIA AP POOL
Spending like never before, gun control, police reform, immigration reform, Covid-19 and higher taxes summed up President Joe Biden's first speech to Congress delivered Wednesday night — 24 hours before his first 100 days in office. The president delivered his remarks on the aforementioned, saying his agenda would help lift a resurgent America to even greater levels of social and economic stability.
"After just 100 days, I can report to the nation America is moving again. Turning peril into possibility, crisis to opportunity, setbacks into strength," the president said in remarks lasting just over an hour. He later stated, “America is moving. Moving forward. And we can’t stop now. We’re in competition with China and other countries to win the 21st century.”
The address was like no other. The empty room included few lawmakers and other Congresspeople whose presence was important to the process. Everyone wore masks, and First Lady Jill Biden did not host guests. Mr. Biden, whose life has been spent on Capitol Hill as a senator and vice president, felt comfortable at the podium as he delivered his proposals on a number of democratic priorities. He unveiled his American Priorities Plan, which calls for $1.8 trillion in spending paid for by rich Americans, along with a $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan that Mr. Biden and Democrats say is needed to rebuild the country's ailing roads, bridges, power supplies and other important foundational facilities.
The American Families Plan, among other things, call for free community college tuition (The plan estimates that if all states and territories participate, up to 5.5 million students could enroll and pay nothing), and free preschool education. The community college plan would typically result in associate degrees.
The spending agenda, which is upon a law supported by Democrats that included $1.9 trillion in new spending, equates to $6 trillion without accounting for the federal government's $4 trillion annual budget.
The new strategy represents a shift away from the long-held belief within both parties that the government is innately less efficient than the private sector, an assumption that has paved the path to the American way of life that deferred to the markets.
The president said his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan would represent a once in a generation investment "in our families and children." He pointed to past investments such as space exploration and schools, adding that “time and again, they propel us into the future.”
Mr. Biden's address was the first time in U.S. history that a president was flanked by women on the dais: Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.).
To pay for his proposals, Mr. Biden foresees a resurgent Internal Revenue Service boosted by additional funding after years of cuts left the federal agency feeble. He would raise taxes on top earners and capital-gains rates, and raise taxes on companies.
Democrats plan on raising the top income-tax rate 39.6 percent from 37 percent; households making more than $1 million would also see the top rate on capital-gains and dividends climb to 39.6 percent from 20 percent. According to the Wall Street Journal, including existing payroll and investment taxes—each 3.8 percent—the top rates on wages and capital gains would reach 43.4 percent, up from 23.8 percent. The president would also expand the 3.8 percent tax to some new types of income.
Delivering the Republican response, Sen. Tim Scott (R., S.C.) — the only Black Republican U.S. senator who is also considered a 2024 hopeful — said Mr. Biden's proposal was a "liberal wish list of government waste."
He added, “Our best future will not come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams. It will come from you, the American people."
Mr. Biden showed some signs of compromise when he pointed to a $568 billion infrastructure plan offered by Republicans, stating, "Let's get to work."
The president called on Congress to move past is decades-long deadlock on immigration and collaborate on a plan; he also called on Congress to bring forth a gun control bill named after George Floyd by May 25, the day Mr. Floyd was killed on 2020.
The lofty proposals in their current forms face universal opposition from Republicans, and Democrats cannot afford to lose a single vote from their caucus in the Senate if those measures as to be rammed through.
The president did not forget Covid-19, and said his efforts have led to over 200 million first-dose vaccinations in the U.S. To that end and as vaccination becomes ubiquitous, Mr. Biden foresees America moving past its Covid-19 season with an economy buttressed by government assistance and ready for the 21st century.