Among the President’s plans is an American Families Plan, which includes a $1.8 trillion investment in child care, education, and paid leave.
President Biden announced that “America is ready for takeoff” as he outlined a broad vision for increased government expenditure to stimulate the economy, including a $1.8 trillion plan for new child care, education, and paid leave spending.
Mr. Biden tried to strike a positive note in his first address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, emphasizing his efforts to fight the pandemic, extend Covid-19 vaccinations—which he encouraged all Americans to obtain—and stimulate economic development.
“America is on the move. Continuing on. And we cannot stop now,” he said during remarks that lasted slightly more than an hour. “We are competing with China and other nations to win the twenty-first century.”
Under pandemic limits, the prime-time speech looked different this year, with a small group of masked speakers, no in-person guests welcomed by the first lady, and more subdued applause. Mr. Biden used the opportunity to sell lawmakers and the public on his economic plans, including his proposed American Families Plan, and to reaffirm his commitment to a long list of Democratic goals, including passage of legislation on policing, gun control, and immigration.
“We must demonstrate that democracy still works. That our government is still functional and capable of delivering for the American people,” Mr. Biden said. He pleaded with Republicans to collaborate. Republican members of Congress have overwhelmingly criticized his economic policy, claiming he has introduced excessive government spending and that his tax proposals could harm the economy.
Taken together, the Democratic president’s policies reflect an audacious attempt to reimagine the position of government in economic shaping. By betting on government as a growth engine, the White House is reversing long-held beliefs in both parties that the public sector is fundamentally less competitive than the private sector and that policymakers should usually yield to markets.
Mr. Biden emphasized the American Families Plan, which is financed primarily by increased taxes on the richest Americans, and his $2.3 trillion infrastructure program, which includes new spending on bridges, highways, and broadband internet. Mr. Biden justified the huge spending plans on the grounds that they are important to bolster the nation’s economy and jobs.
In reference to family policies, Mr. Biden said that it was past time for a “once in a lifetime investment in our families and children.”
He noted that the US has historically used public expenditure on items like education and space exploration to achieve great things.
“These are investments that we made as a country and investments that only the government could make,” he said. “They repeatedly propel us into the future.”
To pay for his plans, Mr. Biden proposes raising the top income and capital gains tax rates, increasing corporate taxes, and expanding the Internal Revenue Service to audit and collect more money.
Mr. Biden reiterated his campaign promise that those earning less than $400,000 would not face higher taxes, but he added that it was past time for businesses and the richest Americans to “do their fair share.”
As a senator and vice president, the president has attended several such speeches at a Capitol that remains heavily guarded after the building’s storming on Jan. 6.
Mr. Biden referred to the abuse, describing it as “the most heinous assault on our democracy since the Civil War.”
For the first time in the nation’s history, the president was flanked on the dais by two female officeholders: Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.).
Sen. Tim Scott (R., S.C.) delivered the Republican response to President Trump’s State of the Union address. Mr. Scott, the Senate’s only Black Republican, is being eyed as a potential presidential candidate in 2024.
Mr. Scott characterized Vice President Biden’s infrastructure plan as a “liberal wish list of wasteful government spending.” Additionally, he asserted that the president has fallen short of his campaign promises to unite the nation.
“Our best future will not be shaped by Washington machinations or socialist fantasies. It will be initiated by you, the American people,” he said.
Mr. Biden made a direct appeal to Republicans, arguing that jobs and infrastructure are bipartisan concerns and thanking Republicans who have offered an infrastructure counterproposal. “Let us begin,” he said.
He also urged Congress to “end our exhausting war on immigration,” pressing for substantive reforms to immigration laws in the wake of an increase in border crossings.
Mr. Biden received immediate praise from Democrats, including Mrs. Pelosi, who described him as delivering a “unifying message of resilience, determination, and hope.”
Additionally, the president urged Congress to support a number of Democratic goals, including increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, closing the gender pay gap, and bolstering worker bargaining rights. He advocated for improving access to healthcare and lowering the cost of prescription drugs.
Mr. Biden urged Congress to move on gun control after a string of mass shootings. And he urged lawmakers to pass a police bill named for George Floyd, a Black man whose assassination sparked a wave of protests last May.
“We have all seen the injustice knee on the neck of African Americans,” Mr. Biden said. “We have a tremendous opportunity to bend the moral universe’s arc toward justice.”
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which prohibits the use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants, was passed on a party-line vote by the Democratic-controlled House in March. However, it faces opposition in the Senate, where Republicans reject a clause that would make it easier to sue police officers in civil court. Mr. Scott, who has led GOP discussions on the topic, said that he has “extended an olive branch” to Democrats on police reform, but they have thwarted his efforts.
Mr. Biden noted the United States’ tensions with Russia and China, but stated that the US should explore opportunities for cooperation on mutually beneficial issues.
Mr. Biden stated that he had communicated to Chinese President Xi Jinping that the US was “not seeking confrontation,” despite his promise to keep Beijing responsible for human rights violations and unfair trade practices. The president used similar language to describe his approach to Russia, expressing his willingness to avoid confrontation while cautioning Moscow against behavior that could result in additional sanctions. His administration is currently planning for a potential summit this summer with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Additionally, he defended his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan by September 11.
“After two decades of service, valor, and sacrifice, the time has come to return those troops,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Biden’s ideas would be put to the test in Congress, where Democrats have razor-thin majorities and the party’s conservatives and progressives are not all on the same page. If Republicans block his attempts in the Senate, Democrats would almost certainly need to use a budget tactic known as reconciliation to pass the bill with a simple majority. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) suggested Wednesday that the new measures could be reconciled. This also includes Democrats to maintain unity in the house, which is currently divided 50-50, with the vice president acting as a tiebreaker.
Mr. Biden’s party will defend its narrow midterm victories in 2022. A once-a-decade redistribution of House seats is projected to benefit Republicans, as red-leaning states win seats on net.
According to the White House, the new families budget contains $1 trillion in new spending over ten years and $800 billion in tax cuts, the majority of which are expansions of provisions established or extended in this year’s Covid-19 relief legislation. Mr. Biden is advocating for a compulsory childcare program for 3- and 4-year-olds and for all Americans to receive two years of tuition-free community college. He will also provide funding to help low- and middle-income families afford child care and create a national paid-leave program for those who need time off to care for a child or loved one or to recover from illness, among other factors.
To fund the new services, the administration proposes increasing the highest income tax rate from 37% to 39.6%. Mr. Biden will also increase the top capital gains and dividends tax rate for households with more than $1 million to 39.6 percent from 20 percent. Including the current 3.8 percent payroll and investment taxes, the highest rates on salaries and capital gains will increase to 43.4 percent, up from 23.8 percent. He proposes to broaden the 3.8 percent tax to include some additional forms of income.
Additionally, Mr. Biden will alter the way capital gains are taxed at death. And the proposal is based on $700 billion in revenue that the administration claims will come from expanding the IRS, which has shrunk significantly over the last decade due to budget cuts.
Following the address, the president intends to tour the country to support his initiatives. He will be in Atlanta on Thursday for a car rally and in Philadelphia on Friday for a celebration of Amtrak’s 50th anniversary. Mr. Biden and Dr. Biden would fly to Plains, Georgia, during their visit to Georgia, to meet with former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter.