Key takeaways from Biden's speech to US Congress

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – United States President Joe Biden used his first joint address to Congress to plead with dozens of lawmakers in the room to work together and detailed a US$4 trillion (S$5.3 trillion) economic plan he said would make the country more competitive with China.

Here are a few key takeaways:

Emerging from crisis

It is a tradition for US presidents to give their diagnosis of the nation during an address to Congress.

Mr Biden made the case that thanks to a successful vaccine roll-out and a US$1.9 trillion relief package, the US, which has lost more than half a million people to the coronavirus, is on the upswing.

“Now – after just 100 days – I can report to the nation: America is on the move again. Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength,” said Mr Biden.

Historic moment for women

Wednesday (April 28) marked the first presidential speech to Congress in which two women sat behind the President on the dais – Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice-President Kamala Harris. Mr Biden recognised the historic moment at the top of his speech.

“Madam Speaker, Madam Vice-President. No president has ever said those words from this podium. No president has ever said those words. And it’s about time.”

The end of trickle-down?

Seeking a historic reshaping of the US economy, Mr Biden laid out plans to tax wealthy Americans and corporations, in order to fund massive investments in infrastructure, education, and low-income and middle-class families.

“My fellow Americans, trickle-down economics has never worked. It’s time to grow the economy from the bottom up and middle out,” Mr Biden said.

“When you hear someone say that they don’t want to raise taxes on the wealthiest 1 per cent and on corporate America – ask them: Whose taxes are you going to raise instead, and whose are you going to cut?”

China, the autocratic rival

The US and China are locked in a battle for global influence and a large part of Mr Biden’s argument for investing more in the US economy was the need to compete with and win against China.

“America will stand up to unfair trade practices that undercut American workers and industries, like subsidies for state-owned enterprises and the theft of American technologies and intellectual property,” he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is “deadly earnest about becoming the most significant, consequential nation in the world. He and others, autocrats, think that democracy can’t compete in the 21st century, with autocracies,” Mr Biden said.


Mr Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress, Ms Kamala Harris (left) and Ms Nancy Pelosi behind him at the Capitol in Washington, on April 28, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

A deadline for a police Bill

Mr Biden urged Congress to pass legislation to overhaul policing practices by the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death next month. This was the first time the President put a deadline on the issue.

“We have all seen the knee of injustice on the neck of Black America. Now is our opportunity to make real progress,” Mr Biden said.

Overcoming the Capitol riots

Mr Biden called the Jan 6 attack on the US Capitol a dark day in the nation’s history, arguing that America’s rivals abroad saw it as an opportunity to seize on division. He pressed Congress to come together and show the world the US can still get things done.

“They look at the images of the mob that assaulted this Capitol as proof that the sun is setting on American democracy. They are wrong. And we have to prove them wrong. We have to prove democracy still works.”

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