Biden delivers first joint address to Congress

By Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 12:08 p.m. ET, April 29, 2021
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1:09 a.m. ET, April 29, 2021

Biden just referenced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Here's what the legislation would do.

From CNN's Clare Foran

President Biden just urged Congress to act on police reform, referencing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which already passed the US House of Representatives. It now needs a debate and a vote in the US Senate.

"My fellow Americans, we have to come together to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the people they serve, to root out systemic racism in our criminal justice system and to enact police reform in George Floyd's name that passed the House already," Biden said.

"I know Republicans have their own ideas and are engaged in a very productive discussion with Democrats in the Senate. We need to work together to find a consensus, but let's get it done next month by the first anniversary of George Floyd's death," he added.

According to the legislation's fact sheet, the bill would "save lives by banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants" and would mandate "deadly force be used only as a last resort."

In the wake of the Derek Chauvin verdict, many of Floyd's family members, leaders and activists and Biden said that now is the time to continue to push that legislation forward. Supporters of the bill say it would improve law enforcement accountability and work to root out racial bias in policing.

Here's what the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would do:

  1. Ban chokeholds. While many police agencies say they don't train their officers to use chokeholds, they are still used. The legal standard for the use of chokeholds is vague, making it difficult to prosecute officers who abuse this use of force
  2. Ban no-knock warrants. The no-knock warrant allows officers to break into homes without warning.
  3. Create a duty to intervene. When police officers see another officer using excessive force, the witnessing officers would be required to intervene. 
  4. Create a public registry. The law establishes a national police misconduct registry available to the public. This would stop officers from evading consequences for their actions by moving to another jurisdiction.
  5. End qualified immunity: Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that protects government officials from being held personally liable for violations – for example, when police use excessive force. Ending qualified immunity would mean that, if a police officer breaks the law, that officer would be held accountable

Democrats now control the Senate, which has a 50-50 partisan split with Vice President Kamala Harris acting as the tie breaker. But most legislation in that chamber still requires 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, and it's not clear there would be enough Republican support to get the legislation across the finish line in the Senate.

10:07 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Biden: "We have service members in Afghanistan who were not yet born on 9/11"

President Biden placed America's presence in Afghanistan in perspective tonight, saying "we have service members serving in the same war as their parents once did."

Biden's remarks come just days after it was confirmed that the US has begun to withdraw troops from the country in local areas.

"We have service members in Afghanistan who were not yet born on 9/11," Biden said during his first joint address to Congress. "War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multi-generational undertaking of nation-building."

Biden said the US has "delivered justice to Osama Bin Laden and we degraded the terrorist threat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan" and now, two decades later, "it’s time to bring our troops home."

More context: Biden announced his decision to end America's longest war earlier this month, arguing that the decades-long conflict no longer aligned with American priorities.

The deadline the President has set for troops to withdraw is absolute — with no potential for an extension based on worsening conditions on the ground. 

See the moment:

10:07 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Biden slams Trump's 2017 tax cut

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

President Biden slammed former President Trump's 2017 tax cut plan while making the case for his proposal to tax the wealthiest 1% of Americans.

Biden said that through his plan the IRS would "crack down on millionaires and billionaires that cheat on their taxes."

"It's estimated to be billions of dollars by think tanks of the left, right, and center. I'm not looking to punish anybody. But I will not add a tax burden, additional tax burden on the middle class of this country. They're already paying enough. I believe what I propose is fair. Fiscally responsible. And it raises revenue to pay for the plans I propose and will create millions of jobs that will grow the economy and enhance our financial standing in the country," he said.

Biden then went on to slam Republicans and Trump for their 2017 cut plan.

"Look, the big tax cut of 2017, remember, it was supposed to pay for itself. That was how it was sold. And generate vast economic growth. Instead, it added $2 trillion to the deficit. It was a huge windfall for corporate America and those at the very top. Instead of using the tax saving to raise wages and invest in research and development, it poured billions of dollars into the pockets of CEOs. In fact the pay gap between CEOs and their workers is now among the largest in history," Biden said.

"My fellow Americans, trickle down, trickle down economics has never worked. It's time to grow the economy from the bottom and the middle out," the President said.

Watch here:

10:02 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Biden: "Trickle down economics has never worked"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

President Biden laid out his plan to pay for his ambitious agenda, saying that he did not oppose millionaires and billionaires, but they must pay their fair share of taxes.

Biden also criticized trickle down economics, a theory popular among Republicans, which says that tax cuts given to big businesses and the wealthy, strengthen the economy by trickling down to smaller businesses and individuals with fewer resources.  

"My fellow Americans, trickle down, trickle down economics has never worked and it is time to grow the economy, for the bottom and the middle out," said Biden, receiving applause and a few standing ovations from Democratic lawmakers. 

Watch the moment:

9:50 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Biden wants the "wealthiest 1% of Americans to begin to pay their fair share"

Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images
Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images

President Biden wants the wealthiest Americans to pay "their fair share" when it comes to taxes.

"I will not impose any tax increase on people making less than $400,000. But it's time for corporate America and the wealthiest 1% of Americans to begin to pay their fair share. Just their fair share," Biden said during his first joint address to Congress.

More context: Biden has said he is already working to make permanent several major, albeit temporary, tax breaks for low-income and middle class Americans, that were part of the stimulus. These include expansions of the child tax credit and earned income tax credit, as well as more generous Affordable Care Act premium subsidies.

Much of Biden's plan rests on reversing the Republicans' 2017 tax cuts, which were more heavily weighted to those at the upper end of the income ladder, though many key provisions will expire after 2025.

In March, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden believes that "those at the top are not doing their part" and "obviously that corporations could be paying higher taxes."

9:50 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Fact check: Biden’s infrastructure plan and education

From CNN's Holmes Lybrand

In arguing that his infrastructure plan would create well-paying jobs for Americans, President Biden said that “Nearly 90% of the infrastructure jobs created in the American Jobs Plan don’t require a college degree. 75% don’t require an associate’s degree.”

Facts First: While it’s impossible to fact check the impact of a plan that hasn’t even passed Congress, a forecast from Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce supports these figures depending on how “college degree” is defined. The study estimates that 85% of the jobs from the infrastructure plan would be filled by those without a bachelor’s degree, while 75% of the jobs would be filled by those without an associate’s degree, according to the estimate. 

The forecast predicts that 16% of the jobs could go to those with education levels below graduating high school, 37% could go to those with a high school diploma, 14% to those with some college education but no degree, 8% to those with a postsecondary vocational certificate and 10% to those with an associate’s degree. 

Many of these jobs would be temporary, as a study from S&P Global notes, estimating that the majority of jobs would taper off by 2029 as infrastructure projects are completed. It’s important to note too that studies and estimates around the infrastructure plan vary widely.  

Again, this is just one forecast of the potential effects of a plan not yet passed by Congress.

 

9:51 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Biden makes an appeal for bipartisanship as a means to compete globally

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Melina Mara/The Washington Pos/Pool/AP
Melina Mara/The Washington Pos/Pool/AP

President Biden made an appeal for bipartisanship and his sweeping infrastructure plan tonight, framing the need for consensus domestically as a means for the US to maintain competitiveness globally, particularly with China.

“Vice President Harris and I met regularly in the Oval Office with Democrats and Republicans to discuss the American Jobs Plan. And I applaud a group of Republican Senators who just put forward their own proposal,” Biden said during his address to a Joint Session of Congress, referring to a proposal unveiled by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito last week.

Biden continued, “So, let’s get to work. I wanted to lay out to Congress my plan before we got into the deep discussion. I’d like to meet with those who have ideas that are different. We welcome ideas. But the rest of the world isn’t waiting for us. I just want to be clear: from my perspective, doing nothing is not an option. Look, we can’t be so busy competing with one another and forget the competition we have with the rest of the world to win the 21st century.”

Biden went on to describe a two-hour conversation he had with Chinese President Xi Jinping upon taking office.

“He’s deadly earnest on 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. It takes too long to get consensus,” he said.

Biden is betting on democracy — and that, in his view, will require consensus and big investments. Central to that challenge will be the consensus of Congress, and whether he's able to forge ahead and pass key legislative priorities with a 50-50 Senate.

There have been active discussions with top White House officials and a group of Senate Republicans, including Capito, on the potential compromise, though the intensifying discussions are still in early stages. Biden has also suggested that his definition of “bipartisan” passage of his massive infrastructure proposals does not necessarily require Republican votes in Congress, but rather, support from a majority of Americans.

9:46 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Biden remembers son Beau while pushing for more funding for the NIH: "Let's end cancer as we know it"

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

Chip Somodevilla/Pool/AP
Chip Somodevilla/Pool/AP

President Biden remembered his late son Beau Biden while urging for more funding for the National Institute of Health to create an advanced research project agency to focus on developing breakthroughs to prevent, detect and treat diseases like cancer, Alzheimers and diabetes.

Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015. Congress renamed a cancer research bill after him in 2016, Biden's last year as vice president. He recounted that moment during his remarks.

"Here's what it would do. It would have a singular purpose, to develop breakthroughs to prevent, detect, and treat diseases like Alzheimer's, diabetes, and cancer. I'll still never forget when we passed the cancer proposal in the last year as vice president, almost $9 million going to NIH. You'll excuse the point of personal privilege. I'll never forget you standing, Mitch, and naming it after my deceased son. It meant a lot. But so many of us have deceased sons, daughters, and relatives who died of cancer. I can think of no more worthy investment. I know of nothing that is more bipartisan. So let's end cancer as we know it. It's within our power. It's within our power to do it," Biden said.

9:51 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Biden tasks Harris with taking lead on the broadband component of the American Jobs Plan

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez and Jeff Zeleny

President Biden said during his joint address to Congress tonight that he is tasking Vice President Kamala Harris with being the point person on broadband efforts in the American Jobs Plan.

The infrastructure proposal, Biden said, will create "jobs connecting every American with high-speed internet, including 35% of rural Americans who still don’t have it. This will help our kids and businesses succeed in a 21st century economy.”

"And I am asking the vice president to lead this effort if she would,” Biden added, turning to Harris, who nodded. “Because I know it will get done.”

Though the scope of her responsibilities wasn't completely clear in the speech, a White House official told CNN that Biden is tasking Harris with the broadband component of the American Jobs Plan – not the entire jobs plan. The assignment is to focus on lifting the broadband piece within the broader jobs plan – to get it passed and implement it.

Watch the moment: