Biden's declaration: America's democracy 'is rising anew'

Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. stand and applaud Wednesday as President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress in the House chamber.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden declared that “America is rising anew” as he called for an expansion of federal programs to drive the economy past the pandemic and broadly extend the social safety net on a scale not seen in decades.

Biden's nationally televised address to Congress, his first, raised the stakes for his ability to sell his plans to voters of both parties, even if Republican lawmakers prove resistant. The president is following Wednesday night's speech by pushing his plans in person, beginning in Georgia on Thursday and then on to Pennsylvania and Virginia in the days ahead.

In the address, Biden pointed optimistically to the nation's emergence from the coronavirus scourge as a moment for America to prove that its democracy can still work and maintain primacy in the world.

Speaking in highly personal terms while demanding massive structural changes, the president marked his first 100 days in office by proposing a $1.8 trillion investment in children, families and education to help rebuild an economy devastated by the virus and compete with rising global competitors.

His speech represented both an audacious vision and a considerable gamble. He is governing with the most slender of majorities in Congress, and even some in his own party have blanched at the price tag of his proposals.

At the same time, the speech highlighted Biden's fundamental belief in the power of government as a force for good, even at a time when it is so often the object of scorn.

“I can report to the nation: America is on the move again,” he said. “Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength.”

While the ceremonial setting of the Capitol was the same as usual, the visual images were unlike any previous presidential address. Members of Congress wore masks and were seated apart because of pandemic restrictions. Outside the grounds were still surrounded by fencing after insurrectionists in January protesting Biden's election stormed to the doors of the House chamber where he gave his address.

“America is ready for takeoff. We are working again. Dreaming again. Discovering again. Leading the world again. We have shown each other and the world: There is no quit in America,” Biden said.

This year’s scene at the front of the House chamber also had a historic look: For the first time, a female vice president, Kamala Harris, was seated behind the chief executive. And she was next to another woman, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The first ovation came as Biden greeted "Madam Vice President.” He added, “No president has ever said those words from this podium, and it’s about time.”

The chamber was so sparsely populated that individual claps could be heard echoing off the walls.

Yet Biden said, “I have never been more confident or more optimistic about America. We have stared into an abyss of insurrection and autocracy — of pandemic and pain — and ‘We the People’ did not flinch.”



At times, the president plainly made his case for democracy itself.

Biden demanded that the government take care of its own as a powerful symbol to the world of an America willing to forcefully follow its ideals and people. He confronted an issue rarely faced by an American president, namely that in order to compete with autocracies like China, the nation needs “to prove that democracy still works” after his predecessor’s baseless claims of election fraud and the ensuing attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“Can our democracy overcome the lies, anger, hate and fears that have pulled us apart?” he asked. “America’s adversaries – the autocrats of the world – are betting it can’t. They believe we are too full of anger and division and rage. They look at the images of the mob that assaulted this Capitol as proof that the sun is setting on American democracy. They are wrong. And we have to prove them wrong.”

Biden repeatedly hammered home that his plans would put Americans back to work, restoring the millions of jobs lost to the virus. He laid out an extensive proposal for universal preschool, two years of free community college, $225 billion for child care and monthly payments of at least $250 to parents. His ideas target frailties that were uncovered by the pandemic, and he argues that economic growth will best come from taxing the rich to help the middle class and the poor.

Biden's speech also provided an update on combating the COVID-19 crisis he was elected to tame, showcasing hundreds of millions of vaccinations and relief checks delivered to help offset the devastation wrought by a virus that has killed more than 573,000 people in the United States. He also championed his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, a staggering figure to be financed by higher taxes on corporations.

His appeals were often emotive and personal, talking about Americans needing food and rental assistance. He also spoke to members of Congress as a peer as much as a president, singling out Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republicans' leader, to praise him and speaking as one at a professional homecoming.

The GOP members in the chamber largely stayed silent, even refusing to clap for seemingly universal goals like reducing childhood poverty. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said, in the Republicans' designated response, that Biden was more rhetoric than action.

“Our president seems like a good man,” Scott said. “But our nation is starving for more than empty platitudes."

The president spoke against a backdrop of the weakening but still lethal pandemic, staggering unemployment and a roiling debate about police violence against Blacks. He also used his address to touch on the broader national reckoning over race in America, urging legislation be passed by the anniversary of George Floyd’s death next month, and to call on Congress to act on the thorny issues of prescription drug pricing, gun control and modernizing the nation’s immigration system.

In his first three months in office, Biden has signed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill — passed without a single GOP vote — and has shepherded direct payments of $1,400 per person to more than 160 million households. Hundreds of billions of dollars in aid will soon arrive for state and local governments, enough money that overall U.S. growth this year could eclipse 6% — a level not seen since 1984. Administration officials are betting that it will be enough to bring back all 8.4 million jobs lost to the pandemic by next year.

A significant amount proposed just Wednesday would ensure that eligible families receive at least $250 monthly per child through 2025, extending the enhanced tax credit that was part of Biden’s COVID-19 aid. There would be more than $400 billion for subsidized child care and free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds.

Another combined $425 billion would go to permanently reduce health insurance premiums for people who receive coverage through the Affordable Care Act, as well a national paid family and medical leave program. Further spending would be directed toward Pell Grants, historically Black and tribal institutions and to allow people to attend community college tuition-free for two years.

Funding all of this would be a series of tax increases on the wealthy that would raise about $1.5 trillion over a decade. Republican lawmakers in Congress so far have balked at the price tags of Biden's plans, complicating the chances of passage in a deeply divided Washington.

(12) comments

Sharon Kayne

Prince,

You have a descent grasp of American history, but you are dead wrong on one major statement: "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are NOT constitutionally protected rights. Those words come from the Declaration of Independence. And while that is a fine document, I don't believe it has any standing in current U.S. law. Too many people refer to the U.S. Constitution without having read it (Trump clearly never did). Give it a go -- it's actually fairly short. And while most people assume it's all about our rights and liberties, it's actually about how our federal government is constructed, laying out the powers and duties of the three branches and the manner of elections. Our individual rights and liberties were not addressed until the Bill of Rights (made up of the first ten amendments) was added and ratified in 1791. And yes, the U.S. Constitution does empower Congress to "lay and collect taxes" to provide for "the general welfare" (Article 1, section 8) - both of which are often maligned as "anti-American" from those on the right (who also tend to claim, with no hint of irony, that they hew to the Constitution most patriotically).

Emily Koyama

Look real hard, and you can see the strings attached to his arms.🤣

Jim Klukkert

Look real hard, and you can some intelligence in what Emily Koyama writes. Look real HARD!

Okay, maybe not....

Emily Koyama

🤣

Richard Irell

Well, she thinks that she’s funny . . ,

Prince Michael Jauregui

More sweeping platitudes and baseless visions of grandeur. As, violence and division terminally afflicts a once-vibrant and Godly-blessed nation.

Meanwhile, the -literally- incompetent Career-Politician-in-Chief cunningly failed to acknowledge the historic border crisis: Over 23,000 undocumented Latino children cruelly being held in cages - under conditions worse than most animal shelter. The heartless, wicked disregard for the innocent from clinics to cages, cannot not and shall not go unanswered.

His shameless exploitation of George Floyd, and subsequent pandering, cements more division in "America".

Both, Biden and his faithful Associated -Operation Mockingbird- Press merely need Google the name "MARIO GONZALEZ" to recognize their longtime, gross and inexcusable commitment to inequality.

!Dios lo ve TODO! Psalm 149:Seven-9 in 2021!

Jim Klukkert

Hey Prince- what time period do you believe the United States to have been a "vibrant and Godly-blessed nation?"

Thanks.

Prince Michael Jauregui

Fair enough question , James: Of course, Economically speaking, there has always been ebbs and tides. Without question, post-WWII, a decent wage, a comfortable home, and family were all attainable to many hard-working Americans. Thus, the Baby Boom replete with a Nuclear Family, resulted.

Be sure, despite the social turbulence and global-unsteadiness of the 1960's, the "American Dream" was still accessible to most, and by the mid-70's, inarguably, the United States of America was THE bona fide Super Power on Economic, Military and Culture levels. Then in 1973, The U.S. "Supreme" Court sanctioned the slaughter of innocent unborn in the safest place of their -brief- existence - their own mother's womb. Not only effectively violating the most fundamental U.S. Constitutional Right of "Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness" to the unborn child, but also, effectively terminating the absolute greatest of America's natural resource: We, The People.

Now, after 1973, the ebbs and tides continued, only Today, the once-Super Power is merely a global power - among others. While, mostly death and destruction increasingly reigns supreme within our borders. Sir, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, and the once-Super Power is reaping what it has sown. James, you ain't seen nuthin' yet. Anyhow, be good to you.

Jim Klukkert

Prince, thanks for timely and courteous reply.

There are many groups, including but not limited to African-Americans, LatinX, LGBT+, Native Americans and various relatively recent Immigrant populations, who would vigorously question the concept that post-WWII, a decent wage, a comfortable home, and family were all attainable to ALL hard-working Americans. I would assume you care for those folks.

I do wonder then, what is the intent of your statement that while true for many of the dominant culture, is not the same for those I listed?

Have a good day.

Richard Irell

And people of color were treated so well. And we killed a lot of people who didn’t look like us. But, hey, all godless commies look alike. Even babies.

Jim Klukkert

Mario Gonzalez, R.I.P., with your brother George Floyd. We will say your names, we know that you do matter, and we will remember you as we move to finally end this racist, murderous violence by Agents of the State.

Thank you Prince for putting up this name.

Mario Gonzalez, R.I.P.

Prince Michael Jauregui

James and Mr. Irell, I appreciate both of your thoughtful and respectful replies.

Be clear: My comment was merely a very-brief synopsis in reply to Jim's thought-provoking question - as opposed to a full dissertation on the rise and decline of post-WWII America.

As the Seventh child of a USAF veteran, I moved a little. Mostly, Southern California ('65-'71) and Southern New Mexico ('71-'80), after several-years in Germany as an active-duty USAF servicemen, I lived and worked in several West and Southwest states.

So, my references are merely my first-hand experiences and observations.

Yes James, the once-envisioned "...perfect union..." of Lincoln, is Today, further away with every passing day. Yet, you cannot deny the great advances made by all the disenfranchised groups you mentioned. I've long and very publicly championed the causes of -both- Native and Hispano/Latino American. Overstand, -if you will- they have not been handed neither the vast Political, Economic nor Culture advances given to others - this is a inexcusable and indisputable fact.

Mr. Irell, War has existed for millenniums. Be sure, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Afghanistan alike, were wicked and greedy squander of American lives and resources. The true winners? The U.S. Military/War Industrial Complex -and their enabling and enriched political partners.

Either way, the ultimate demise of our country fast-approaches. Cause-of-Death? Self-Inflicted fools.

Welcome to the discussion.

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