Biden delivers first joint address to Congress

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

Updated 3:00 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021
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8:01 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Biden will address pandemic and Jan. 6 attack and say "America is on the move again"

From CNN's DJ Judd

The White House released excerpts of President Biden's first joint address to Congress. He is slated to deliver remarks at 9 p.m. ET.

Biden will say that “America is on the move again” after a series of crises, including the pandemic, the economic havoc it caused, and the attack on the Capitol, which Biden calls “The worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.”

He will tout his administration’s first 100 days in office, push for passage of his American Jobs Plan, and seek “to restore the people’s faith in our democracy to deliver.”

Read portions of his prepared remarks here:

"As I stand here tonight, we are just one day shy of the 100th day of my administration.
100 days since I took the oath of office—lifted my hand off our family Bible—and inherited a nation in crisis. The worst pandemic in a century. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.
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."

"Now, I know some of you at home wonder whether these jobs are for you. You feel left behind and forgotten in an economy that’s rapidly changing. Let me speak directly to you.
Independent experts estimate the American Jobs Plan will add millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in economic growth for years to come. These are good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced. 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.
The Americans Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America.
And, it recognizes something I’ve always said: Wall Street didn’t build this country. The middle class built this country. And unions built the middle class."

"We have to prove democracy still works. That our government still works—and can deliver for the people.
In our first 100 days together, we have acted to restore the people’s faith in our democracy to deliver.
We’re vaccinating the nation. We’re creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. We’re delivering real results people can see and feel in their own lives. Opening the doors of opportunity. Guaranteeing fairness and justice."


7:56 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Biden expected to discuss policing reform tonight — one week after Derek Chauvin was convicted

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

The White House has said policing reform will be a key topic discussed during President Biden's evening address.

"As he's thinking about what his joint session speech looks like next week, he has every intention of using that as an opportunity to elevate this issue and talk about the importance of putting police reform measures in place," press secretary Jen Psaki said last week.

Biden's comments about policing reform from the chamber will come one week after Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes last year, was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

"The President doesn't believe that he alone can pull the George Floyd (Justice in Policing) Act across the finish line. That is going to be up to Congress," she said, adding that Biden "believes the bar for convicting officers is too high."

7:51 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Why Biden's speech tonight will technically not be a State of the Union address

From CNN's Adam Levy and Ethan Cohen

President Biden will deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress tonight.

Since this is Biden’s first address, it’s not technically called a "State of the Union" speech. It is an "annual message."

Since 1977, new presidents have not called their first speech before a joint session of Congress a "State of the Union." They are often referred to as an "annual message" or a message/address on a particular topic.

Former President Jimmy Carter delivered a message on energy policy in 1977 and economic addresses were given by Ronald Reagan in 1981, Bill Clinton in 1993, George W. Bush in 2001 and Barack Obama in 2009.

George H.W. Bush gave a speech titled "Building a Better America" in 1989. President Trump’s speech in 2017 did not have a specific policy focus.

A "joint session" of Congress is an official, working session of Congress. All State of the Union/annual message addresses are delivered before a "joint session," not a "joint meeting."

A "joint meeting" of Congress is a less formal gathering and is not an official working session of Congress. Over the years, various prominent Americans or foreign leaders have addressed joint meetings of Congress. 

Generally, only US presidents address joint sessions of Congress. However, there were two occasions in 1934 and 1948 when a foreign dignitary addressed a joint session, but in both cases the US president also spoke.

Read more here.

7:42 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Biden will wear a mask entering the House chamber but take it off later

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Biden has formulated how he will wear his mask during his first appearance at a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night.

Biden will enter the Capitol Building wearing his mask, and when he's introduced into the House Chamber, he will also be wearing his mask, a person familiar with the plans said.

He will walk down the center aisle masked, though there will be far fewer people inside the chamber than is typical during a State of the Union/ annual message.

Once he arrives at the rostrum for his remarks, Biden will remove his mask for the speech. Once it concludes, he'll re-mask for the walk out of the chamber.

Both Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will both be wearing masks during the speech when they're sitting behind Biden. It's the first time two women will occupy the seats on the rostrum behind the President.

A senior Democratic aide told CNN's Manu Raju on Monday that House rules require anyone speaking in the chamber to be wearing a mask, but that doesn't apply to Biden because the rules only pertain to lawmakers.

The rule, which took effect on Jan. 4, similarly didn't apply to then-Vice President Mike Pence when he presided over the congressional certification of Biden's victory on Jan. 6.

7:35 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

White House will provide ASL interpreter for Biden's speech in historic first

From CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi

In a historic first, the livestream of a President’s address to a joint session of Congress will include American Sign Language interpretation.

The White House on Twitter said it will be providing an ASL interpreter for Biden’s first address to Congress Wednesday night to “make this historic moment accessible for all Americans.”

“We commend the White House for taking steps to ensure accessibility for all who are watching, including deaf and hard of hearing people,” Howard Rosenblum, the CEO of the National Association of the Deaf, said in a statement provided to CNN. He urged TV stations carrying Biden's address to display the interpreter in frame.

Biden had the Pledge of Allegiance signed while also recited at his inauguration in January and his administration has provided a ASL interpreter at every White House briefing since Jan. 25.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the move to add an ASL interpreter to briefings was "part of this administration's accessibility and inclusion efforts."

"The President is committed to building an America that is more inclusive, more just and more accessible for every American, including Americans with disabilities and their families," Psaki said then.

Some of the more than 48 million Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing rely on closed captioning, but other members of the deaf community feel that closed captioning can be inaccurate or difficult to follow, and it doesn’t convey tone or add context in the way an interpreter can, advocates have told CNN.

Rosenblum pointed to the diversity of the community, saying that some are "fluent only" in ASL, "whereas many others are fluent only in English. Consequently, both ASL interpretation and accurate closed captioning are necessary to ensure that everyone within the deaf and hard of hearing community can understand their President’s address to Congress."

7:29 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Biden will unveil his new American Families Plan tonight. Here's what is in the proposal. 

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

During his address tonight, President Biden will lay out key components of the final piece of a two-part sweeping, $4 trillion spending proposal, which would invest hundreds of billions into education, child care and paid leave.

The measures being proposed in the American Families Plan include:

  • Making community college free
  • Enhancing Pell grants
  • Enhancing funding for recruiting
  • Developing the education workforce
  • Funding paid family and medical leave
  • Funding universal preschool, and extending of free summer meals for children

The plan would also extend or make permanent several existing measures.

The plan would cost $1.8 trillion and the President will seek to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans to finance it. His new proposed measures would raise about $1.5 trillion over a decade.

While key elements of the proposal were tweaked, removed or added in just the last several days, the joint session speech has long been viewed as the platform to unveil the proposal and its key elements, several of which Biden's top advisers consistently point out poll quite well with the public.

In the days following the address, Biden will hit the road to make his first sales pitch for the plan at events around the country. Cabinet members and White House officials will take part in the tour as well.

7:27 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Here's a list of senators attending Biden's joint address

From CNN's Hill Team

Here’s a list of some of the senators who have confirmed they are attending President Biden’s joint address this evening.

Members of the Senate Democratic caucus attending the joint address in-person include:

  • Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia
  • Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon 
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon 
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York
  • Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada
  • Sen. Alex Padilla of California 
  • Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey
  • Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin
  • Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
  • Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Majority Whip
  • Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware
  • Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware
  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut
  • Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia
  • Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia
  • Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York
  • Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island
  • Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii
  • Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland
  • Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota
  • Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland
  • Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats

GOP senators going to Biden’s joint address are:

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina 
  • Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, part of GOP leadership
  • Sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee
  • Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah
  • Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama
  • Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio
  • Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, in GOP leadership
  • Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee
  • Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska
  • Sen. Mike Lee of Utah
  • Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho
  • Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota
  • Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana 

Other senators who are possibly attending include:

  • Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont
  • Sen. Todd Young of Indiana

7:31 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

The Senate's only Black Republican will deliver the GOP response tonight after Biden's address

From CNN's Clare Foran

Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images
Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina will deliver the GOP response following President Biden's address to a joint session of Congress tonight.

The decision will give Scott, the lone Black Republican senator and the lead Republican negotiator on Congress' policing reform efforts, a prominent national platform from which to speak to the country and counter Biden's message.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy announced last week that Scott had been chosen to give the speech.

"Senator Tim Scott is not just one of the strongest leaders in our Senate Republican Conference. He is one of the most inspiring and unifying leaders in our nation," McConnell said in a statement.

Scott has served in the Senate since 2013 and previously served in the House of Representatives representing South Carolina's 1st Congressional District.

The GOP senator has spoken in the past in personal and emotional terms about his life experience and how he has faced unfair police scrutiny as a Black man.

"In many cities and towns across America, there is a deep divide between the Black community and law enforcement. A trust gap, a tension that has been growing for decades. And as a family, one American family, we cannot ignore these issues," Scott said in a speech on the Senate floor in 2016.

7:12 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

What do you want to see in Biden's next 100 days?

President Biden has moved fast since his Jan. 20 swearing-in, signing a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill into law less than two months into his term and issuing more executive orders so far than his three predecessors.

Those efforts have paid off, with the administration reaching the milestones of 200 million coronavirus shots delivered and vaccine eligibility opened to everyone 16 and over before Biden's 100th day in office. Unemployment is falling, with new jobless claims hitting a pandemic low, and schools are reopening for in-person learning, returning kids and families to a semblance of normal life.

As the President gets ready to begin his next 100 days, what issues do you want him to focus on and why? Leave your comments in the box below and we may feature some of them.