America is on the move again, Biden tells Congress

Photo: AP

In his nationally televised address to Congress on Thursday US President Joe Biden declared that “America is rising anew” as he called for an expansion of federal programmes to drive the economy past the pandemic and broadly extend the social safety net on a scale not seen in decades, AP reported.

In the address, Biden pointed optimistically to the nation’s emergence from the coronavirus scourge as a moment for America to prove that its democracy can still work and maintain primacy in the world. “I can report to the nation: America is on the move again,” he said. “Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength.”

Speaking in highly personal terms while demanding massive structural changes, the president marked his first 100 days in office by proposing a $1.8 trillion investment in children, families and education to help rebuild an economy devastated by the virus and compete with rising global competitors.

While the ceremonial setting of the Capitol was the same as usual, the visual images were unlike any previous presidential address. Members of Congress wore masks and were seated apart because of pandemic restrictions. Outside the grounds were still surrounded by fencing after insurrectionists in January protesting Biden’s election stormed to the doors of the House chamber where he gave his address.

This year’s scene at the front of the House chamber also had a historic look: For the first time, a female vice president, Kamala Harris, was seated behind the chief executive. And she was next to another woman, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Biden repeatedly pointed out that his plans would put Americans back to work, restoring the millions of jobs lost to the virus. He laid out an extensive proposal for universal preschool, two years of free community college, $225 billion for child care and monthly payments of at least $250 to parents. His ideas target frailties that were uncovered by the pandemic, and he argues that economic growth will best come from taxing the rich to help the middle class and the poor.

Biden’s speech also provided an update on combating the Covid-19 crisis he was elected to tame, showcasing hundreds of millions of vaccinations and relief checks delivered to help offset the devastation wrought by a virus that has killed more than 573,000 people in the United States. He also championed his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, a staggering figure to be financed by higher taxes on corporations.

The president also used his address to touch on the broader national reckoning over race in America, urging legislation be passed by the anniversary of George Floyd’s death next month, and to call on Congress to act on the thorny issues of prescription drug pricing, gun control and modernizing the nation’s immigration system.

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