Just in time for Joe Biden’s 100-day mark as president, the commander-in-chief is set to give his first big speech to Congress on Wednesday night. But don’t call it a State of the Union.
While it will look and feel like a State of the Union speech, Biden — like other presidents in their first year in office — will give what’s known as an address to a joint session of Congress. The upshot, however, will be similar: The president will lay out his big priorities in a prime-time address aimed at connecting directly with voters.
High on the agenda: the “American Families Plan,” or initiatives for what some have dubbed social infrastructure.
“The core of that [speech] will be him laying out the specifics of the American Families Plan, his commitment to child care, to education,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last week, “and ensuring that there’s an investment in economic security from the federal government.”
That plan may cost as much as $1.8 trillion, with spending split among child care, paid family leave and free community college, among other things. Biden will reportedly propose paying for such programs with a tax increase on the wealthy, but the White House has not divulged specifics. Stocks
turned lower on Thursday after a report that the president would seek to nearly double the capital-gains tax rate for those making $1 million or more annually.
The families plan will follow Biden’s proposal of a major infrastructure package that is still being hotly debated with congressional Republicans.
Biden will also press for police reforms, in a speech that will come just over a week after former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on three counts of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.
After the verdict was announced on April 20, Biden pressed Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. He’ll amplify that call on Wednesday night, Psaki said, after a promise to the Floyd family that he’ll use his “bully pulpit” to help push the measure forward.
The bill would ban chokeholds and some no-knock warrants, while aiming to make pursuing claims of police misconduct easier. The bill has passed the House but faces longer odds in the Senate. The death of Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of white officer Chauvin set off protests around the country and sparked a re-examination of racism in the U.S.
Investors may focus most on the families plan and its related tax component. But Biden’s speech — coming one day before his 100th day as president — will be broad-ranging, predicted Sarah Bianchi of Evercore ISI.
“Biden will outline his broad vision for the country including COVID, climate, racial justice and the economy,” Bianchi said in a recent note. “Biden will also touch on health care and prescription drugs, noting that they are a priority.”
While Biden’s address will be beamed across the U.S. and around the world, his in-person audience will be decidedly smaller than is typical of such an event. The House of Representatives chamber will be used for the address, as is customary, but attendance will be limited due to the ongoing pandemic. Biden will, however, be permitted to invite guests, according to the House’s second-ranking Democrat, Steny Hoyer of Maryland. That will allow the president to continue a tradition of bringing people who may be singled out for recognition during the speech.
Republicans have enlisted Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the Senate’s only Black Republican, to give the GOP’s response to Biden’s speech. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said of Scott: “Nobody is better at communicating why far-left policies fail working Americans.” The GOP has been highly critical of Biden’s proposed tax hikes, including the corporate tax increases he proposed to fund infrastructure projects.
Scott won’t be the only one giving a response. In an unusual move, Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York will speak for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Bowman, who is also Black, told NBC News that Biden has done things “that I love.” But, he said, “It’s important for us as progressives to continue to push and continue to organize.”