After his first 100 days in office, President Biden gave his first address to a joint session of congress on Wednesday night. Biden talked about his administration’s COVID-19 response and two major investment plans for American jobs and families. For the first time in American history, there were two women behind the President — Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Biden began his speech by reflecting on the worst pandemic the U.S. has seen in a century and the progress of the American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law on March 11.
“After I promised we’d get 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots into people’s arms in 100 days, we will have provided over 220 million COVID shots in those 100 days,” Biden said.
More than half of American adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 90% of Americans live within five miles of a vaccination location, Biden said.
LSA sophomore Andrew Schaeffler, campus organizer for Students for Biden, said he was happy with Biden’s COVID-19 efforts.
“There are always going to be some of those classic campaign promises, but in terms of COVID, he’s come through,” Schaeffler said. “The promises with the most tangible impact have been fulfilled and exceeded.”
Biden also discussed his American Jobs Plan to create millions of livable-wage jobs, 75% of which he said would not require a college degree. The stated purpose of this legislation is to rebuild America’s infrastructure, including an upgrade to roads and bridges and replacing all lead pipes to ensure access to clean water. The legislation aims to support caregivers with better wages and benefits, positioning the U.S. to compete with foreign powers using a modern power grid and high-speed internet for every American, Biden said.
“This is the largest jobs plan since World War II,” Biden said. “American tax dollars are going to be used to buy American products, made in America, to create American jobs.”
LSA sophomore Evan Hall, Co-Chair of College Democrats, emphasized the impact of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan.
“I believe the broader legislation on human infrastructure—which includes anti-racism policies and immigration—and climate change are eager measures we are excited to see impact Michigan politics,” Hall said.
Later in his speech, Biden highlighted the four goals of his administration’s American Families Plan, which will aim to cut child poverty rates in half, Biden said. The plan intends to increase access to education by providing two years of universal preschool and two years of free community college; access to quality, affordable childcare; up to twelve weeks of paid parental and medical leave; and an extension of the childcare tax credit.
LSA freshman Matt Zhou, incoming fundraising chair for College Republicans, said many of his fellow members are worried about the financial feasibility of the American Families Plan. At a cost of $1.8 trillion in its current form, it would be one of the largest spending bills ever passed.
“There is a divide within our chapter, but some of us think that (the proposals) cost a lot of money,” Zhou said.
Biden said the U.S. would fund these plans without increasing the federal deficit by increasing tax rates for the wealthiest 1% of Americans, and without any tax increase on workers making less than $400,000 per year.
“We’re only going to affect 3/10 of 1% of all Americans,” Biden said. “I believe that what I propose is fair, it is responsible, it will pay for what I propose and it will create millions of jobs.”
Zhou said there is bipartisan support for a lot of the legislative goals that President Biden presented before the joint session of Congress. Lowering prescription drug prices, pulling troops out of Afghanistan and infrastructure are issues important to both parties, he said. However, he expressed doubt that legislators will achieve a significant amount during Biden’s tenure.
“I don’t think much will happen,” Zhou said. “I’m hopeful, I don’t know what Congress will do in the next few months. If they can work together, that’s what we should be striving for, especially in a partisan time like today.”
Schaeffler said that he was most excited about President Biden’s call on Congress to protect voting rights. Biden urged Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to protect the unprecedented number of people who voted in the 2020 election.
“HR-1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act are pro-democracy efforts, make voting easier and include various structural reforms,” Schaeffler said. “At the end of the day, when more people have access (to voting), it makes the government more democratic.”
President Biden emphasized his hope for bipartisan support for his agenda in order to ensure the U.S.’s global leadership continues into the 21st century, but also signaled his readiness to move forward regardless.
“I’d like to meet with those who have ideas that are different, that they think are better,” Biden said. “But the rest of the world is not waiting for us. From my perspective, doing nothing is not an option.”
Daily Staff Reporter Scarlett Bickerton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.