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Biden delivers address before the joint session of Congress

▶ Watch Video: Biden delivers first address to joint session of Congress

Jobs. Infrastructure. Police reform. Gun control. Ending cancer. President Joe Biden delivered a hopeful  message to America in his first address before a joint session of Congress as he touted his recovery plans and even more ambitious proposals. 

“It’s good to be back,” the former senator told his former colleagues, although the eerily quiet House Chamber had an audience of just 200, compared to the normally boisterous 1,600 who usually attend this address –  COVID-19 forced the smaller guest list.

Mr. Biden pushed forward with the message that “In America, we always get up” though  “100 days ago, America was on fire.” He  highlighted the vaccination rate; the American Recovery Plan, the nearly $2 trillion stimulus plan; his infrastructure proposal, the American Jobs Plan, and his latest bold proposal, the American Families Plan.

He argued for another $4 trillion in spending on top of the COVID relief bill that’s already been passed and asked for GOP input, up to a point.

“We welcome ideas,” Mr. Biden said. “But, the rest of the world isn’t waiting for us. Doing nothing is not an option.”

In addition to plans to “build America back better,” Mr. Biden extended a handful of olive branches: Calling for a cure for cancer, universal pre-k and more limited provisions on gun control. 

Mr. Biden called on Congress to pass the police reform bill by the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death, as well as to move forward with voting rights legislation. He also pushed his immigration and gun control bills.

Mr. Biden also touted a first: He was flanked by two women on the dais, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris. 

At times, Pelosi’s presence seemed like the only holdover from former President Trump’s final State of the Union, a contentious speech that ended with Pelosi ripping it up on camera behind Mr. Trump. 

The speech was televised on CBS broadcast stations and streaming on CBSN. CBSN started coverage at 5 p.m. ET with Elaine Quijano on “Red & Blue,” and will also stream the Republican response after Mr. Biden’s speech.

CBSN coverage included reporting and analysis from correspondents and contributors, featuring CBS News political reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns, CBS News immigration reporter Camilo Montoya-Galvez reporting from the border, CBS News political analyst Lynda Tran and CBS News political contributors Joel Payne, Leslie Sanchez and Antjuan Seawright.  

CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell led the Special Report. She was joined in the studio by chief White House correspondent Nancy Cordes and CBS News political contributor Joel Payne. Chief homeland security correspondent Jeff Pegues will contribute coverage throughout the evening. The CBS News polling unit also provided insights on Mr. Biden’s first 100 days and how Americans view his handling of the pandemic and the economy, plus infrastructure proposals, race relations and their outlook for the challenges ahead.

Congressional correspondent Nikole Killion reported from the Capitol and senior White House and political correspondent Ed O’Keefe from the White House.

Mr. Biden’s speech coincided with the end of his first 100 days in office. A CBS News poll published Sunday found that 58% of respondents approved of his job so far, and 42% disapproved.

Drafts of the remarks began circulating last week and copies of the latest draft — held together by black binder clips — were spotted in the West Wing on Monday.

Vinay Reddy, the president’s lead speechwriter, and White House senior adviser Mike Donilon, who has collaborated with Mr. Biden on most major addresses and helped develop the “battle for the soul of the nation” focus of his 2020 campaign, are leading the speechwriting process.

Republicans announced last week that Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina will deliver the GOP response.

Last year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped up a copy of then-President Trump’s State of the Union as she stood behind him after he finished delivering it.

For the first time in the history of this address, the president will be flanked by two women: Vice President Kamala Harris and Pelosi. 

Ed O’Keefe contributed reporting.



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