Washington (AP) – In his first speech as US President to Congress, Joe Biden called for an American new beginning after the era of his predecessor Donald Trump.
“After 100 days of salvation and renewal, America is ready to take off. We’re back to work. Dream again. Discover again. Lead the world again, ”Biden said in the Capitol. The Democrat expressed hope regarding the corona pandemic and promoted multi-billion dollar plans to bring about sweeping changes in the US.
Next Thursday, Biden will be in office for exactly 100 days. The 78-year-old Democrat replaced Republican Trump in the White House on January 20. Since then he has formed a completely different style. Despite the Republicans’ earlier blockade, Biden adopted conciliatory rather than confrontational tones. The first speech of a new president at a joint session of the House and Senate in the Capitol is not traditionally called a State of the Union speech, which otherwise happens annually.
This year was a lot different. For the first time in US history, two women sat behind the president on the occasion: Kamala Harris, the country’s first female vice president, and House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi. In addition, Biden’s audience was significantly smaller than in a normal year due to the corona pandemic. The 200 instead of the usual 1,600 spectators were seated separately from each other and with masks in the stands.
Biden called on MPs from both sides to support his government’s far-reaching plans. He described an infrastructure package that he proposed as the greatest boost to the labor market since World War II. The program, which spans more than two trillion dollars (about 1.7 trillion euros), will continue to generate tremendous growth over the next eight years.
Biden’s plans to support families and promote education also go a long way. He wants to significantly expand the limited social benefits and drive up the cost of $ 1.8 trillion through tax increases. “No one should have to choose between a job and a salary, or care for themselves and a loved one – a parent, spouse, or child,” said the president.
Major Democrats in the House and Senate, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, hailed the speech as unifying, thoughtful and hopeful. They were benevolent to Biden’s massive investment plans. Schumer said the Democrats would do everything they could to make the president’s vision a reality.
But the US is still deeply divided domestically. Biden’s proposals require Congressional approval, where Democrats have only a razor-thin majority. Republican Senator Tim Scott accused Biden in a response to the address that his measures are increasingly tearing the country apart and that he no longer presented the people as “empty phrases”. Some plans could even be rejected by individual moderate Democrats in the Senate.
In view of the corona pandemic, Biden was hopeful: he drew up a positive interim balance and asked the Americans to get vaccinated. Sufficient vaccine doses are available. “The past 100 days in one of the worst pandemics in history have been one of the greatest logistical achievements this country has ever seen.” But the epidemic has not yet been defeated and the US must remain vigilant.
Biden also addressed other pressing issues in the country, such as the “gun violence epidemic” and structural racism, on which he called on the parties to cooperate. “We’ve all seen the knee of injustice in black America’s necks,” Biden said, referring to the murder of African American George Floyd, who was killed in a brutal arrest in the city of Minneapolis last year. A now convicted white policeman knelt on Floyd’s neck for a few minutes. Biden said the job now was to bring about real change.
While Biden focused on the domestic political agenda, he also addressed the challenges facing China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. He called on Chinese President Xi Jinping to abide by global trade rules. Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin of further escalation amid mounting tensions. Moscow’s actions will have consequences.
The “crises of our time” could not be handled by one nation alone, Biden said. He cited terrorism, cyber security, climate change and pandemics as examples. The US is back to lead the world – along with its allies.
At the lectern, Biden also recalled the dramatic images of January 6, when Trump supporters forcibly stormed the seat of the United States Congress. “The riot was an existential crisis – a test of whether our democracy can survive.” She survived – but now it’s important to compete with the world’s autocracies to show that American democracy is still functioning.