Biden set to deliver first joint address to Congress tonight
WASHINGTON, D.C. - President Joe Biden is set to deliver his first joint address to Congress Wednesday night, which comes on the eve of his 100th day in office. He is expected to unveil a new part of his multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure plan and attempt to win over Republican support as opposition to the steep price tag grows on Capitol Hill.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing guidelines in the U.S. Capitol, the speech will look much different than normal. Among the changes tonight: just about 200 guests will be inside the U.S. House chamber, down from the much larger crowd of nearly 1,600 for the annual address. We’re told up to 140 lawmakers will be there, mostly party leaders and senior members. Chief Justice John Roberts will represent the Supreme Court.
In a historic first: two women – Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – will sit behind Biden during the speech.
There will be no in-person guests alongside First Lady Jill Biden tonight. We understand some guests will appear virtually.
One person who will attend in-person is U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), a close Biden ally and chair of the Senate Aging Committee. Casey tells us he interested in hearing Biden unveil his new $1.8 trillion dollar “American Families Plan,” the second part of his sweeping infrastructure plan focusing on education and social safety nets. It follows the $2 trillion “American Jobs Plan” Biden previously introduced.
“If you’re going to build back better instead of just rebuild,” Casey said, referring to the Biden phrase used on the campaign trail and in the White House, “you have to make investments that, frankly, we haven’t made in recent American history.”
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) will not be attending in-person. She supports the so-called “soft infrastructure” package that, rather than focusing on “hard infrastructure” like roads and bridges, focuses on child care, medical, and family issues.
“(Biden) has also talked about the soft infrastructure, the care economy,” Gillibrand said.
“Making sure we have national paid leave, making sure we have universal pre-K, affordable day care, invest in our hospitals and invest in our schools. Those are the kinds of investments that I think will get our country back in its feet again.”
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott will deliver the Republican response once Biden wraps up.
Locally, U.S. Rep. Fred Keller (R-Pa.) is hoping to hear how the president plans to work with Republicans on his agenda moving forward.
“Actions speak louder than words, so he can stand up there at the State of the Union and say whatever he wants,” Keller said. “He said a lot of things on January 20th (Inauguration Day) that haven’t come to fruition.”
The president’s speech comes about two months later than expected, due partly to the pandemic and also security concerns here at the Capitol. A president’s first address to a joint session of Congress is called a “joint address” rather than a “State of the Union” address as the new administration traditionally learns what the status of the union is during their initial days in office.
Biden is set to speak at 9p.m. ET and will be nationally televised.