Biden’s big speech tonight is like no other

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Live Updates: Biden’s joint address to Congress

The vice president and speaker of the House of Representatives typically sit behind the president for speeches to Congress. This year, for the first time, that’s two women.

04/28/2021 09:41 PM EDT

President Joe Biden used his first line in his first joint address to Congress to acknowledge a historical moment sitting behind him.

“Thank you, Madame Speaker and Madame Vice President,” Biden said, greeting Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “No other President has ever said those words from this podium… and it’s about time.”

All eyes are on Biden as he delivers his joint address to Congress, but directly behind him is a sight seen for the first time — two women leaders sitting behind the president.

Historically, the vice president — also the president of the Senate — and House speaker share the dais directly behind the president during the joint address to Congress. Tonight, for the first time, two women hold both positions. Harris is the first woman of color to sit in either position.

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As President Joe Biden headed down the main aisle of the House chamber Wednesday night for his first joint address to Congress, it was a smaller affair than what he was used to.

The former two-term vice president and long-time senator has been to countless presidential addresses in Congress, normally packed to the brim, but this one was a toned-down affair due to coronavirus restrictions that limited the attendee list to 200 people.

But Biden, who is known for connecting with others on a personal level, still got in some fist bumps with lawmakers, including Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), as well as some pats on the back from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.). He even shared a half embrace with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

In a typical year, nabbing a spot on the aisle would be one of the hottest seats in the room, with the opportunity to shake hands and rub shoulders with the president as he makes his way to the dais. But this year, the aisles were sparsely populated, with individual lawmakers standing rows apart.

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04/28/2021 09:00 PM EDT

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President Joe Biden on Wednesday night outlined an optimistic vision after a year wracked by a deadly virus and incalculable struggles in America and abroad.

Biden said he “inherited a nation in crisis,” one that is now on the mend.

“America is on the move again,” Biden said. “Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength.”

“America is rising anew, choosing hope over fear, truth over lies and light over darkness,” Biden continued.

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First lady Jill Biden is bringing five guests virtually to President Joe Biden’s first joint address to Congress Wednesday, among them being a gun violence prevention advocate and a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient.

Usually, first ladies invite guests in-person to watch presidential addresses in the Capitol, but amid the coronavirus pandemic, attendance has been limited to 200 lawmakers, Biden administration officials and staff.

All five of the first lady’s guests will “personify some of the issues or policies that will be addressed by the President in his speech,” according to a release, suggesting Biden will touch on immigration, the coronavirus pandemic, gun laws, education, LGBTQ issues, racial justice and broadband access. During the address Wednesday night, Biden will unveil his broad “American Families Plan.”

One guest, Javier Quiroz Castro, is a nurse in Houston “on the frontlines of the pandemic” and a DACA recipient. His parents brought him to the U.S. when he was 3 years old. Another guest, Stella Keating, 16, became the first transgender teen to testify in the Senate when she did so earlier this year on the Equality Act, a sweeping LGBT rights bill the House passed in February.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended President Joe Biden’s proposed tax increases amid GOP criticism Wednesday, slamming Republicans for their 2017 tax cuts.

“We’re on a better path for the people. What he is talking about is exactly just to reverse some of what the Republicans did in their tax scam where they added almost $2 trillion to the national debt, if you include the cost and the interest on the debt, to give tax breaks to the top, top, wealthiest people in the country,” Pelosi said Wednesday afternoon in an interview on MSNBC.

Biden has proposed paying for a broad $1.8 trillion plan to boost child care and families via tax increases on wealthy Americans, drawing attacks from Republicans. Biden has also proposed paying for his broadly defined infrastructure package by hiking the corporate tax rate. Biden has pledged to not increase taxes for individuals making less than $400,000 annually.

Republicans’ 2017 tax cuts that Pelosi referenced had a $1.5 trillion price tag over 10 years. Pelosi defended Biden’s proposed tax hikes, saying they don’t come from “any resentment against anybody for their success” and that Biden is “rewarding work” and meeting people’s needs.

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white house

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president would like to talk about “where we can find agreement moving forward.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that President Joe Biden will likely invite members of Congress to the White House next week for bipartisan meetings on his sprawling infrastructure and social welfare proposals.

Together, Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan would constitute roughly $4 trillion in new federal spending over the next decade, financed by a combination of tax hikes for corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

Congressional Republicans have balked at the proposed changes to the tax code, which would reverse certain provisions of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax law, while also taking issue with the White House’s definition of infrastructure — which they criticize as overly broad.

Last week, Senate Republicans rolled out a roughly $568 billion counterproposal to Biden’s more than $2 trillion infrastructure package that focuses most of its funding on more traditional elements of infrastructure, such as bridges, highways and roads.

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White House

With attendance limited due to the pandemic, many Cabinet officials won’t be in the Capitol for the speech.

04/27/2021 03:37 PM EDT

Updated 04/27/2021 03:58 PM EDT

2021-04-27T03:58-0400

There won’t be a designated survivor for President Joe Biden’s first joint address to Congress Wednesday night, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.

Typically, presidents designate a top official to camp out in a secure location in the case of a disaster that kills the president and cabinet officials. But this time, amid the coronavirus pandemic, things are different, with attendance for Biden’s speech limited to 200 lawmakers, Biden administration officials and staff.

“There does not need to be a designated survivor because the Cabinet will be watching from their offices or home, but they will not be joining him for the speech,” Psaki said.

With Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Secretary of State Antony Blinken all expected to attend the speech, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen would be the de facto designated survivor as the next in line of succession, assuming Yellen does not attend.

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