29 April 2021
U.S. President Joe Biden marked his first 100 days in office with an address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, saying "America is on the move again."
The president noted that he took office in a time of crisis. He called it "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 praised how his administration dealt with the COVID-19 health crisis. He repeatedly said that an infrastructure plan proposed by Democratic Party lawmakers would create millions of jobs. He also called for $1.8 trillion in spending to expand government support for children, families and education.
The president added, "We have to prove democracy still works. That our government still works—and can deliver for the people."
Biden gave the speech in the U.S. Capitol building which is still surrounded by a fence and barriers after the January 6 riot. Behind Biden sat the nation's first female vice president, Kamala Harris. She was next to Nancy Pelosi, the first female speaker of the House.
Because of pandemic restrictions, the speech came before a smaller than usual group of 200 lawmakers wearing face coverings.
The president called his latest proposal, the American Families Plan. The plan calls for an additional four years of free, public education. It includes $200 billion for pre-school for 3 and 4-year-olds. It calls for an additional $109 billion for two years of free community college education and more than $80 billion to aid poor students.
For families, there would be $225 billion for childcare and increased payments for childcare workers, $225 billion for a medical and family leave program, and another $200 billion for healthcare.
The latest spending proposal came after the $2.3 trillion spending plan proposed last month to pay for roads and bridges, to help research and manufacturing, and to provide housing for the poor. Last month, Biden signed into law a $1.9 trillion spending plan that included direct payments to Americans during the pandemic.
Mindful of the closely divided Congress, Biden took his message directly to Americans. He said, "Now, 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 proposed to pay for the spending with higher taxes on Americans making over $400,000. He would cancel the 2017 tax cuts under the last administration and would tax investment gains like regular income.
The spending plans, if approved by Congress, would greatly expand social programs. They would also increase government involvement in people's everyday lives.
On foreign affairs, Biden reminded China that the U.S. will maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific area, in his words, "not to start conflict – but to prevent conflict." He promised to answer Russia's interference in U.S. elections and cyberattacks on government and businesses.
The president called Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs "a serious threat to America's security and world security." He said the U.S. would deal with the threats through diplomacy and deterrence.
Biden also asked Congress to pass legislation this year to create a path to citizenship for Dreamers – children of illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors.
Republican answer to Biden
Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina gave the Republican answer to Biden's trillion-dollar spending proposals.
Scott said the president's actions are pulling Americans apart. He blamed the Democrats for keeping public school children away from their schools during the pandemic. He said the spending proposals would hurt jobs and noted, "Our best future won't come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams. It will come from you — the American people."
I'm Mario Ritter, Jr.
Hai Do wrote this report for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
Editor's Note: Dreamers were brought to the U.S. as minors. An earlier version of this story incorrectly described dreamers' status in the U.S.
Words in This Story
century –n. a period of one hundred years
deliver –v. to do what you say you will do or what people expect you to do
deterrence –n. (politics) the policy of developing a lot of military power so that other countries will not attack your country
scheme –n. a clever and often dishonest plan to do or get something
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