Biden address live updates: President to focus on American Families Plan, COVID during speech to Congress

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the House to order just as Vice President Kamala Harris entered the chamber. Harris and Pelosi made their way through the crowd as lawmakers organized themselves ahead of the president’s speech.

The two lawmakers will sit behind the president during his address to Congress, the first time two women will be seated together at the dais during a presidential address.

– Matthew Brown

Among the issues President Joe Biden will raise during his address to a joint session of Congress is the need to act on gun violence prevention legislation, according to a White House official.

The president is expected to repeat his calls for Congress to pass two House bills that strengthen background checks for gun buyers and reinstate a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines – a measure he helped pass as a senator in 1994.

The comments come weeks after Biden declared gun violence an “epidemic and an international embarrassment” as he announced six executive actions that cracked down on the use of so-called ghost guns, or untraceable weapons that can be constructed from parts purchased online.

Though none of what Biden will say is new, gun safety advocates say his decision to discuss gun safety in his first joint address signals to Congress that it has a responsibility to break the political stalemate and that gun violence prevention remains a top priority in the White House. 

– Courtney Subramanian

COVID-19 restrictions are preventing Joe Biden from getting a packed House tonight for his address to a joint session of Congress, but he will get a robust escort into the chamber.

Twenty-four lawmakers – 12 senators and 12 House members evenly split between the two parties –have been designated as members of the president’s escort committee.

The list of escorts includes three of the four top congressional leaders – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. It also includes several rank-and-file members, including Rep. Marianette Miller-Meeks, the Iowa Republican who squeaked out a hotly contested victory by six votes.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not part of the escort because she will be on the dais welcoming the president into the chamber.

– Ledyard King

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Lawmakers gather ahead of Biden’s speech

The vibe in the U.S. Capitol before President Joe Biden’s speech was relaxed and amicable with members fist bumping each other and gathering in small clusters – all wearing masks as required by House rules.

Two veterans – Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma and Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland – chatted while sitting next to another before Hoyer had to leave the chamber to join the escort team that will be ushering Biden into the House chamber.

Some members took selfies with each other. Others sat quietly scrolling through their phones as they waited for senators to make their way in. Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney traded a friendly word with South Carolina Democratic Rep. James Clyburn.

When the president starts speaking, there will only be 200 in attendance, far from the 1,500 that usually attend presidential speeches.

– Ledyard King

Analysis: Why Joe Biden’s presidency has been so surprising in the first 100 days

President Joe Biden is expected to use tonight’s speech during a joint session of Congress to call on lawmakers to do something that many politicians are loathe to do: Raise taxes.

Biden wants lawmakers to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, a sweeping package that includes paid family leave, free community college, subsidized child care and other proposals to expand the nation’s social safety net.

Biden is asking lawmakers to nearly double the capital gains tax for people earning more than $1 million a year and boost the top marginal income tax rate to 39.5% from the current 37%. He’s also proposing to increase the corporate tax rate to 28%, up from the current 21%, to pay for a companion infrastructure and jobs bill.

– Michael Collins

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Despite not tackling the high cost of prescription drugs in his American Families Plan released Wednesday, President Joe Biden is still expected to emphasize in his speech Wednesday night to a joint session of Congress that reducing drug prices is a top priority.

Biden’s plan also did not propose lowering Medicare’s age eligibility, a proposal he backed during the campaign that is high on the wish list for progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Sanders wants to use the savings from reducing what Medicare spends on drugs to pay for expanding benefits and eligibility.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters Wednesday that Biden left the prescription drug component out of the plan to give Congress “the space to find an agreement.”

– Maureen Groppe

President Biden will use his first speech before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday to unveil a $1.8 trillion proposal for national paid family leave, subsidized child care, universal prekindergarten and free community college.

The president’s American Families Plan is the second piece of his “Build Back Better” economic agenda following the release of a $2.3 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan last month.

The plan would spend $225 billion to create a national three-month, paid family leave policy; $225 billion to cover child-care expenses for low- and middle-income families; $200 billion to make pre-K available for all three- and 4-year-olds, and $109 billion to make two years of community college free for all students.

How to watch Biden’s speech: How to watch President Joe Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday

To pay for the sweeping expansion in social programs, Biden wants to increase taxes on income earned from selling stocks and other assets by nearly doubling the capital gains tax rate from 20% to 39.6%, for households making more than $1 million, among other increases. His administration also said it would crack down on tax loopholes used by high-income tax-filers. The jobs plan would be paid primarily by raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%.

– Joey Garrison

American Families Plan: Biden to propose $1.8 trillion ‘families plan’ with paid leave, child care, universal pre-K, free community college

American Jobs Plan: Joe Biden wants to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure and jobs. These 4 charts show where the money would go.

President Joe Biden will tell a joint session of Congress on Wednesday “America is on the move again” as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic  and will boost his legislative priorities.

Here’s some of what Biden will say, according to excerpts provided in advance of the primetime speech, which begins at 9 p.m. ET:

  • “One hundred days since I took the oath of office – lifted my hand off our family Bible – and inherited a nation in crisis. The worst pandemic in a century. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War,” Biden plans to say. “Now – after just 100 days – I can report to the nation: America is on the move again. Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength.”
  • He’ll say his $2.3 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan is a “blue-collar blueprint to build America” that “recognizes something I’ve always said: Wall Street didn’t build this country. The middle class built this country. And unions built the middle class.”
  • On the COVID-19 vaccine: We’re vaccinating the nation. We’re creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. We’re delivering real results people can see and feel in their own lives. Opening the doors of opportunity. Guaranteeing fairness and justice.”

– Joey Garrison

Biden speech excerpts: ‘America is on the move again,’ Biden will say in first speech before Congress

First lady Jill Biden’s first 100 days: How ‘Dr. B’ is transforming antiquated FLOTUS role

For the first time in history, two women will sit behind a president during an address to a joint session of Congress. 

The historic image during Joe Biden’s speech Wednesday is 245 years in the making.

American presidents are flanked by the Speaker of the House and the vice president during such high-profile speeches to Congress, each sitting behind and on either side of the commander in chief.

For the first time, both of those positions are now held by women: Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

— Savannah Behrmann and Chelsey Cox

‘Representation matters’: With Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, 2 women will share the dais for the first time tonight

Biden’s speech Wednesday evening before a joint session of Congress may seem like a State of the Union address. It is not

The Constitution says the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union,” but Biden isn’t billing his as such in keeping with tradition.

Since the inauguration of former President Ronald Reagan in 1981, presidents have not delivered the State of the Union the year they left office or were inaugurated, primarily because a president can’t really speak about the state of the country just a few weeks in office. That same year is when the new tradition began where the new president addressed Congress without the State of the Union title.

– Jordan Mendoza

The (Not) State of the Union: Why Joe Biden’s speech is not officially the annual address

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