WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will use his first address to Congress on Wednesday night to make a pitch for ambitious investments in the American economy and social safety-net programs, as he seeks to shift his focus beyond the immediate crisis of the coronavirus pandemic nearly 100 days into his administration.
“I can report to the nation: America is on the move again. Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength,” Biden will say, according to excerpts of his speech provided by the White House.
Biden is expected to unveil his American Families Plan as the focal part of his address, a roughly $1.8 trillion package that includes universal preschool, two years of free community college and expanded access to child care. It is the second phase of Biden’s two-part push to boost the economy, following the $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs package, which he announced last month.
Biden will speak directly to Americans who “feel left behind and forgotten in an economy that’s rapidly changing,” according to the excerpts, and will argue that his economic proposals will create millions of jobs that do not require a college or associate’s degree.
“We have to prove democracy still works. That our government still works — and can deliver for the people,” the president will say.
Biden’s speech is a new stage of legislative challenges for the president. Democrats passed his $1.9 trillion covid-19 relief package without Republican support, and now must decide what to do with his newest round of requests.
Biden already faces opposition from Republican lawmakers and some moderate Democrats over his proposal to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans to fund his proposed programs. With an evenly divided Senate and a thin majority in the House, Biden faces an uphill battle in Congress.
Biden is also expected to use his joint session speech — which is not called a State of the Union address because it is an inauguration year — to focus on racial justice and police reform.
Only around 200 people will be allowed in the House Chamber for the speech, far fewer than the usual 1,600 attendees due to the coronavirus pandemic. Attendees will be required to wear masks.
Wednesday will also mark the first time in U.S. history that two women — Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — will be seated behind the president during an address to Congress.
Biden’s speech will begin around 9 p.m. ET. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina is expected to give the Republican rebuttal to Biden later Wednesday night.