Biden calls for broad spending, pressing Congress to turn ‘peril into possibility’
President Biden called for a broad reshaping of American society Wednesday night, using his first formal address to Congress to urge a vast expansion of safety net and educational programs while promising to harness the government to create jobs and opportunity for those often left behind. On Wednesday evening, Mr. Biden returned to Capitol Hill, where he served for more than three decades as a senator, seeking greater spending to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure by imposing new taxes on businesses and corporations. He urged lawmakers from both parties to embrace a sweeping new vision for public benefits, financed by higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
“America is moving. Moving forward. And we can’t stop now,” the president said. “We’re in a great inflection point in history. We have to do more than just build back. We have to build back better.”
If he succeeds, Mr. Biden could usher in a new era that fundamentally expands the size and role of the federal government, powered in part by the government’s efforts combating the health and economic crises caused by a pandemic that has killed more than 573,000 people and upended work, recreation and schooling across the country.
The president offered optimism in the face of the pandemic, saying that “America is on the move again. Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setbacks into strength.” He said Americans are beating back Covid-19 and he urged everyone to get vaccinated.
“Go get vaccinated, America,” he said to broad applause. “Go and get the vaccination. They are available.”
Mr. Biden said progress against the virus must be followed by dramatic investments to help people who “feel left behind and forgotten in an economy that’s rapidly changing.” He said his spending proposals will generate millions of jobs, describing them as “a blue-collar blueprint to build America.”
But the president faces a Congress — and a country — that remains deeply divided about how much to increase government spending and who should pay for it. In his speech, Mr. Biden said that the moment of crisis demands a sufficiently bold response from both sides of the political aisle. But he will made clear that he is prepared to act without Republican support if necessary.
Mr. Biden said he welcomes ideas from Republicans, but added: “The rest of the world isn’t waiting for us. I just want to be clear. From my perspective, doing nothing is not an option.”
Mr. Biden’s address took place against a backdrop that is both familiar and new. Like his predecessors, he delivered it in the House chamber, standing before lawmakers and in front of the House speaker and the vice president. But it was the first time in American history that the two officials behind the president are both women.
Because of the pandemic, Mr. Biden spoke to no more than 200 socially-distanced lawmakers and officials, a fraction of the packed audience that is typically on hand to witness the president’s use of the ultimate bully pulpit. There are no guests of the first lady sitting in the House gallery, though the White House earlier announced five “virtual guests” who officials said “personify some of the issues or policies that will be addressed by the president in his speech.”
The president used his speech to lay out his broader foreign policy and domestic agenda, and planned to describe his decision to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11 as a way to make good on his promise to end America’s “forever wars” even as he warned that the United States still faces a range of other threats, according to prepared remarks.
He planned to renew his call for Congress to pass a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system that would provide a pathway to citizenship for about 11 million undocumented people and urge Congress to pass a federal policing overhaul named after George Floyd, who was killed last year by a police officer in Minneapolis.
In prepared remarks, he planned to repeat his call for Congress to pass new laws to tighten background checks on gun purchases and to say global warming demands that the United States take action to prevent climate change.
But Mr. Biden’s focus was on selling his plans for spending that would total more than $6 trillion over the next decade. His proposals include spending $1.8 trillion on universal prekindergarten, federal paid leave, more affordable child care, free community college, and new spending on health care and poverty.
The US justice department’s internal watchdog launched an investigation on Friday after revelations that former president Donald Trump’s administration secretly seized phone data from at least two House Democrats as part of an aggressive leaks inquiry related to the Russia investigation into Trump’s conduct.
Donald Trump called Joe Biden a “mental retard” during the 2020 election, a new book says, but was reluctant to attack him too strongly for fear the Democrats would replace him with Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama. Biden went on to beat Trump by more than 7m in the popular vote and by 306-232 in the electoral college, a result Trump deemed a landslide when it was in his favor against Clinton in 2016.
The deadly insurrection at the US Capitol was “planned in plain sight” but intelligence failures left police officers exposed to a violent mob of Trump supporters, a Senate investigation has found. The Capitol police intelligence division had been gathering online data since December about plots to storm the building on 6 January, including messages such as: “Bring guns. It’s now or never.” But a combination of bad communications, poor planning, faulty equipment and lack of leadership meant the warnings went unheeded, allowing the insurrectionists to overrun the Capitol and disrupt certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. Five people died.
For over a year, Anthony Fauci has been a bogeyman for conservatives, who have questioned his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and accused him of quietly undermining then-President Donald Trump. But those attacks took on a whole new level of vitriol this week, to the point that one social media analysis described it as highly misleading and at least one platform pulled down some posts, citing false content. It all stemmed from a tranche of Fauci’s emails that were published as part of a Freedom of Information Act request filed by various news outlets. Within hours of publication, the hashtag #FauciLeaks was trending on Twitter.