America 'Ready for Takeoff,' Biden Tells Congress ‚ÄĮ

WASHINGTON - ‚ÄúAfter 100 days of rescue and renewal, America is ready for takeoff,‚ÄĚ U.S. President Joe Biden told a joint session of Congress, using the occasion to push his proposed $4 trillion¬†in government spending¬†and tout his overall performance in coping¬†with a series of¬†historic¬†crises since taking office in January.¬†¬†

The president, in an address on Wednesday evening, said he had¬†inherited a nation in crisis¬†facing the¬†worst pandemic in a century, the¬†worst economic crisis since the Great Depression¬†and ‚Äúthe¬†worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.‚Ä̬†¬†

The address¬†on the eve of his 100th¬†day in office,¬†was¬†not deemed a ‚ÄėState of the Union‚Äô¬†presentation because it was delivered in the first year of a new president‚Äôs term. It¬†was¬†also¬†shorn of some of the typical pomp¬†of the annual presidential speech to both the House and Senate¬†because of coronavirus restrictions.¬†¬†

Typically, as many as 1,600 people packed the House chamber to attend a presidential speech. Only 200 people, mostly members of Congress joined by a small number of officials from other government branches plus select family members, attended. They were socially distanced in the House chamber and wore masks.

Biden spoke from the same dais that insurrectionists overtook on January 6¬†when¬†supporters of‚ÄĮhis predecessor,‚ÄĮDonald Trump,‚ÄĮstormed past law¬†enforcement officers¬†into the¬†U.S.¬†Capitol¬†to try to block the official certification of Biden as the¬†winner of last November‚Äôs¬†presidential¬†election over¬†the incumbent.¬†¬†

The attack on the Capitol, which remains heavily guarded,¬†left five people dead. More than 400 people¬†have been¬†arrested on various charges¬†related to the siege.¬†‚ÄĮ¬†

‚ÄúThe image of a violent mob assaulting this Capitol, desecrating our democracy,¬†remains vivid in all our minds,‚ÄĚ said Biden. ‚ÄúLives were put at risk, many of your lives. Lives were lost. Extraordinary courage was summoned.‚Ä̬†

The president said the insurrection was ‚Äúan existential crisis, a test of whether our democracy could survive¬†‚Ästand it did.‚Ä̬†¬†

Biden devoted the bulk of his 65-minute address to domestic policy issues, although he did mention matters beyond America’s borders.  

The president said¬†he told Chinese President Xi Jinping that the United States will maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific ‚Äújust as we do for NATO in Europe ‚Äď not to start conflict ‚Äď but to prevent one.‚Ä̬†

Biden said he had responded proportionally to Russia’s interference in U.S. elections and the cyber-attacks it launched on government and business. That does not however prevent, according to the president, potential cooperation between Washington and Moscow on nuclear arms reduction and combatting climate change.  

During the address,¬†Biden‚ÄĮproposed‚ÄĮa¬†$1.8 trillion¬†expansion of national government assistance for American children and families.

The plan‚ÄĮfeatures‚ÄĮtwo years of government-paid, pre-kindergarten education for the country‚Äôs youths and two years of free community college for young adults, all of it‚ÄĮto be‚ÄĮpaid for with higher taxes on the country‚Äôs wealthiest people¬†and corporations.‚ÄĮ¬†

Massive spending for infrastructure, jobs creation¬†and education is justified because¬†‚ÄĚChina and other countries are closing in fast,‚ÄĚ said the president.¬†¬†

Such spending, if¬†approved by Congress, would usher in a much bigger national government footprint in American life, way more than most Republican lawmakers would like‚ÄĮbut‚ÄĮwould¬†not go as far as some progressive Democrats envision.‚ÄĮ‚ÄĮ¬†

In remarks directed to the audience of millions at home, Biden said his¬†American Jobs Plan¬†is ‚Äúa blue-collar blueprint to build America‚ÄĚ with millions of ‚Äúgood-paying jobs that can‚Äôt be outsourced.‚Ä̬†¬†

Republicans contend his infrastructure and family spending plans are too costly and assail Biden’s plans to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthiest of Americans.  

Delivering the¬†opposition party‚Äôs¬†televised rebuttal,¬†the only Black Republican in the¬†Senate,¬†Tim Scott¬†of South¬†Carolina,¬†said Biden had inherited from Trump ‚Äúa tide that already turned‚ÄĚ due to the¬†previous¬†administration‚Äôs operation to¬†launch vaccine production and economic policies that were the most inclusive in decades.¬†¬†

‚ÄúA¬†president who promised to bring us together should not push agendas that tear us apart,‚ÄĚ added Scott.¬†¬†

In a statement, one of Scott‚Äôs Republican colleagues in the Senate, Ted Cruz¬†of Texas¬†was more critical of Biden‚Äôs address, saying it outlined¬†‚Äúhis socialist vision for our country,‚ÄĚ and that ‚ÄúI can summarize his speech in three words for you: boring, but radical.‚Ä̬†

National surveys this week show Biden with an average approval rating of‚ÄĮ53%, according to a polling aggregator, Real Clear Politics.‚ÄĮ¬†

In his speech, Biden also touted his administration’s early success in getting Americans vaccinated against the coronavirus, with more than 200 million shots already administered even as the death toll has risen to a world-leading total of more than 573,000.  

U.S. health officials eased mask-wearing suggestions this week, but millions of Americans are refusing, for various reasons, to get¬†vaccinated, or skipping the¬†second‚ÄĮ‚ÄĮshot of a two-dose regimen.‚ÄĮ¬†

‚ÄúGo and get the vaccination,‚ÄĚ Biden implored in his Wednesday evening address.¬†¬†‚ÄĮ¬†

In addition to discussing his plans for domestic spending, Biden discussed his goal of engaging with other nations and taking a leadership role on the world stage, a contrast from Trump who often touted his ‚ÄúAmerica First‚ÄĚ stance and withdrew from international pacts that he viewed as poorly crafted or too costly for the‚ÄĮUnited States.‚ÄĮ¬†

Mentioning¬†the nuclear programs of¬†Iran and North Korea, the president said: ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre going to be working closely with our allies to address the threats posed by both of these countries,¬†through¬†diplomacy as well as stern deterrence.‚Ä̬†¬†

He added that American¬†leadership¬†‚Äúmeans ending the forever war in Afghanistan.‚Ä̬†¬†

It remains to be seen if¬†Biden¬†and congressional Democrats¬†‚Äúare willing to engage in real negotiation that would result in changes to many of the proposals highlighted in his speech,‚ÄĚ Bipartisan Policy Center President Jason¬†Grumet¬†said in a statement to VOA.¬†

‚ÄúKey Administration proposals to modernize infrastructure, provide paid leave, and strengthen childcare have a history of strong bipartisan support, but it will not be possible to build upon this history if the¬†administration pursues a legislative process that excludes Republicans.‚Ä̬†

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Published on 2021-04-29

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Originally posted as: America 'Ready for Takeoff,' Biden Tells Congress ‚ÄĮ | Voice of America - English, made available by Voice of America - United States under the terms of the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal license.


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