‘America is on the move again’: Biden to tell Congress, Americans

On the eve of his 100th day in office, US President Joe Biden will tout his successes and sell his policy ideas.

US President Joe Biden will aim to strike an optimistic tone in his first speech to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night [File: Tom Brenner/Reuters]

United States President Joe Biden will tell a joint session of Congress Wednesday night that “America is on the move again” after inheriting “a nation in crisis” 99 days ago.

“As I stand here tonight, we are just one day shy of the 100th day of my administration,” Biden will say, according to speech excerpts released by the White House.

“100 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,” he will tell an audience of 200 members of Congress and other dignitaries in the US Capitol during a live televised speech at 20:00 local time (01:00 GMT).

“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.”

The president will attempt to strike an optimistic tone, in clear contrast to the last four years of President Donald Trump, who approached politics as a fight and rarely struck a conciliatory tone.

“In our first 100 days together, we have acted to restore the people’s faith in our democracy to deliver,” Biden will say.

“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.”

Biden, who is enjoying the approval of a majority of Americans and whose policy proposals regarding the pandemic, the economy, and rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure are attracting the broad support of Americans, will attempt to sell those ideas to a deeply divided Congress, and to those Americans who do not support his ideas.

“I know some of you at home wonder whether these jobs are for you. You feel left behind and forgotten in an economy that’s rapidly changing. Let me speak directly to you,” Biden will say.

“The Americans Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America. And, it 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.”

Biden has proposed $4 trillion in infrastructure and “family“-related programmes, which Congress is expected to spend the next few months legislating. He is proposing paying for those programmes through tax increases on corporations and wealthy Americans.

Some liberal Democrats are pushing for Biden to propose even more. For their part, Republicans are opposing his ideas, arguing they are too expensive and too expansive, and have proposed a significantly scaled-down infrastructure plan of their own.

He addressed Republican opposition in a session with TV news anchors at the White House hours before the speech.

“Everybody talks about, can I do anything bipartisan? Well, I got to figure out if there’s a party to deal with. We need a Republican Party. … We need another party, whatever you call it, that’s unified – not completely splintered and fearful of one another,” Biden said, according to a tweet from CNN anchor Jake Tapper.

The president is gambling that his spending plans, which are largely popular with American voters, can sway Republicans in Congress to cooperate with the White House.

Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, said ahead of the speech that Biden had not followed through on his promises of seeking unity and has tried to placate liberals instead.

“Over a few short months, the Biden administration seems to have given up on selling actual unity in favor of catnip for their liberal base, covered with a hefty coat of false advertising,” McConnell said.

Racial justice and police reform

The Democratic president will also plead directly with lawmakers to pass legislation to curb police violence, senior administration officials told the Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity.

Biden will highlight repeated police killings of African-American citizens and years of entrenched racism, while honoring the service of the vast majority of officers.

Biden will use his speech to signal openness to bipartisan compromise on policing, speaking positively about negotiations on a reform bill in Congress.

Senator Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the chamber, is set to give his party’s rebuttal to Biden’s speech, with police reform expected to be among the topics. Scott has promised to deliver an “honest conversation” and an “optimistic and hopeful message” in his own nationally televised remarks.

“Our best future won’t come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams. It will come from you — the American people,” Scott said in experts of his speech released ahead of delivery.

He will also credit former President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed for the success of the vaccine rollout, attribute the economic recovery to last year’s Republican-supported COVID-19 relief and use the pandemic-related closure of public schools to argue for school choice.

Foreign policy

Biden is also expected to discuss global cooperation on climate change as well as his foreign policy, specifically his recent announcement to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan as well as China.

One senior congressional aide told the Reuters news agency that Biden was expected to “come out hard on China,” noting frequent calls to take a harder line against Beijing from both Republicans and Democrats.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies