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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1:20 a.m. ET, April 29, 2021

Key lines from Biden's first joint address to Congress

Jonathan Ernst/Pool/AP
Jonathan Ernst/Pool/AP

President Biden spoke in detail tonight about a range of topics — including the coronavirus pandemic, immigration and gun violence — during his first joint address to Congress.

If you missed the speech, here are Biden's most notable lines:

  • On getting the Covid-19 vaccine administered: "After I promised we would get 100 million Covid-19 shots into people's arms in 100 days, we will have provided over 220 million Covid shots in those 100 days," Biden said. "We're marshaling every federal resource. We've gotten vaccinations to nearly 40,000 pharmacies and over 700 community health centers where the poorest of the poor can be reached. We're setting up community vaccination sites, developing mobile units to get the hard to reach communities. Today, 90% of Americans now live within five miles of a vaccination site."
  • On police violence: "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."
  • On gun violence: "I need not tell anyone this, but gun violence has become an epidemic in America," Biden said. "Look, I don't want to become more confrontational. We need more Senate Republicans to join the overall majority of Democratic colleagues and close the loopholes required in background check purchases of guns. We need a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines."
  • On taxing the rich: "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.
  • On bipartisanship over his sweeping infrastructure plan: “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, referring to a proposal unveiled by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito last week.
  • On funding research to fight diseases like Alzheimers: "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.
  • On getting Americans back to work: "Electrical workers installing 500,000 charging stations along our highways. Farmers planting cover crops, so they can reduce carbon dioxide in the air and get paid for doing it," Biden said. "There’s no reason the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing ... Two million women have dropped out of the workforce during this pandemic. Two million. And too often, because they couldn't get the care they needed to care for their child or care for an elderly parent who needs help."
  • On troops in Afghanistan: "We have service members in Afghanistan who were not yet born on 9/11," Biden said. "The War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multi-generational undertaking of nation-building."
  • On Trump's 2017 tax cut plan: "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.
  • On trickle-down economics: "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.
  • On immigration: "Let’s end our exhausting war over immigration. For more than 30 years, politicians have talked about immigration reform and done nothing about it. It’s time to fix it," Biden said.

12:14 a.m. ET, April 29, 2021

Here's how long Biden spoke on different issues in the joint address

From CNN's Caroline Kelly and Christopher Hickey

President Biden spent the majority of his first speech to Congress on Wednesday discussing his economic and infrastructure plans for the nation, his foreign policy vision for America’s role in the world and the coronavirus pandemic and other health care issues, according to a CNN analysis of the address.

The President also touched on a wide array of major policy issues, including gun control, taxation, race and policing, and energy and climate, among others. But the speech largely focused on the economy and infrastructure — the subjects of Biden’s next major legislative push, a sweeping infrastructure package. 

During the address, Biden formally announced the second half of the two-part proposal: the American Families Plan, which would provide an additional $1.8 trillion federal investment in education, child care and paid family leave.

He also touted the administration’s roughly $2 trillion American Jobs Plan for improving the nation's infrastructure and shifting to greener energy over the next eight years.

Here's a look at approximately how much time Biden spent talking about different issues on Wednesday:

11:34 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

CNN poll: 71% of those who watched Biden's speech say it left them feeling optimistic

From CNN's Jennifer Agiesta

About half of Americans who watched President Biden’s address to Congress had a very positive reaction to the speech, and 71% said they walked away feeling more optimistic about the country’s direction, according to an exclusive CNN Poll conducted by SSRS.

The 51% who had a very positive reaction to Biden’s speech is a bit more muted than reaction to the first address from other recent presidents. Obama had the strongest first outing of the last four presidents, with 68% saying they had a very positive reaction to his speech, and George W. Bush in 2001 earned a similar 66% very positive. Fewer, 57% had a very positive reaction to Donald Trump’s 2017 address. 

About 6 in 10 said that Biden made the right amount of outreach to Republicans in his speech, while 38% felt he did not go far enough. Only 4% said Biden went too far. 

The audience of speech-watchers was a friendly one for Biden, as is typical of presidential addresses to Congress. Overall, the pool of people who watched the speech was about 13 points more Democratic than the general public and about 2 points less Republican. That tilt is similar to the partisan makeup of speech audiences for Barack Obama’s final three State of the Union addresses. 

Surveys were conducted by text message with 589 US adults who said they watched the presidential address on April 28 and is representative of the views of speech-watchers only. Respondents were recruited to participate before the speech, and were selected by a survey of members of the SSRS Opinion Panel, a nationally representative panel recruited using probability-based sampling techniques. Results for the full sample of speech-watchers have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5.4 percentage points.

Hear more from CNN's David Chalian:

12:45 a.m. ET, April 29, 2021

CNN's Chris Cillizza breaks down the hits and misses of Biden's address

President Biden delivered his first joint address to Congress tonight, and reactions from both sides of the aisle are already coming in.

CNN's Chris Cillizza discusses the hits and misses from the speech.

Watch here:

11:19 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Fact check: Biden's claims about women leaving the workforce

From CNN's Anneken Tappe 

President Biden said that 2 million women dropped out of America’s labor force during the pandemic, often “because they couldn’t get the care they need for their family, their children,” he added. 

Facts first: Biden is actually understating the number of women who left the labor force during the pandemic.

Seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that as of March 2021, there were 2.6 million fewer women in the labor force compared to February 2020, before Covid-19 took its toll on the economy. The government defines people who aren’t in the labor force as unemployed and not actively looking for a job. 

Women have been hit harder by the pandemic in part because they account for a disproportionate share of workers in sectors that have been most affected by the pandemic, including hospitality and leisure.

In September of last year, when school started again after the summer and many children needed help distance learning, the number of women leaving the workforce was particularly high. 

The employment-population ratio for America’s women stood at 52.8% in March, down from 55.8% before the pandemic but up from its low during the first wave of the pandemic when the economy ground to a halt. 

11:23 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

How Democratic senators are reacting to Biden's speech — and his massive infrastructure plan

From CNN's Sarah Fortinsky, Ted Barrett and Manu Raju

Sen. Joe Manchin
Sen. Joe Manchin Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin, a key lawmaker in negotiations over President Biden's infrastructure plan, said the President's speech was “delivered well” but said of the package: “gotta see the details,” particularly on how it would be paid for.

Asked if the plan is too ambitious, the senator said he was "not going to speak on that until I see everything.” 

He said he’s seen “outlines” but not the details.

Manchin also noted the “bottom line is you have to pay for it so you have to look at the pay fors” and he wants the committees to do their work and make adjustments as needed.

A number of Democratic senators are cautious about the level of spending Biden has proposed.

For instance, when asked whether she was comfortable with the level of spending proposed, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, said, "Well, he's putting out a vision — I think it's up to Congress to decide whether we're going to go along with all of it or what parts of it, and how we're gonna do that." 

"I haven't read the fine details so I want to see that first," Shaheen said when asked whether he was prepared to do that.

Shaheen did praise Biden's speech and said now it's up to Congress to decide next steps.

"I thought it was a wonderful appeal to America to continue to fight through the pain. I thought he had some really excellent calls to action, and certainly laid out a plan for how we compete and how we continue to, as he said, build back better," Shaheen said.

 

11:15 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Fact check: Biden's claims on seniors getting vaccinated

From CNN's Jen Christensen

Jack Orre, 89, and his daughter Linda Davis, 60, wait in line for coronavirus vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic held by L.A. County Department of Public Health for seniors at Whispering Fountains Senior Living Community on Wednesday, March 31, in Lakewood, CA.
Jack Orre, 89, and his daughter Linda Davis, 60, wait in line for coronavirus vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic held by L.A. County Department of Public Health for seniors at Whispering Fountains Senior Living Community on Wednesday, March 31, in Lakewood, CA. Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

President Biden said that “When I was sworn in on January 20th, less than 1% of the seniors in America were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 100 days later, nearly 70% of seniors in America over 65 are protected, fully protected.” 

Facts First: While the numbers on vaccinated seniors that Biden cites are largely true, and his administration has made great strides in vaccinating Americans, Biden has benefitted from timing. When he took office in January, vaccines had only just been made available and some seniors were only newly eligible.   

About 68% of people 65 and older are currently fully vaccinated, according to statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

While it is true that less than 1% of seniors had been fully vaccinated when Biden took office, that’s in part due to the fact that two of the Covid-19 vaccines had been authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration for only a little more than a month.  

In the US, the first person received a vaccination dose outside of a clinical trial on Dec. 14 and Biden took office a little more than five weeks later on Jan. 20. The recommended time between the first and second shot of the Moderna vaccine is 28 days and 21 days for the Pfizer vaccines.  

After health care workers and those people who lived in long-term care facilities, people over the age of 75 were given top priority for vaccinations. 

12:57 a.m. ET, April 29, 2021

Van Jones on Sen. Scott's response: "The message was nonsense"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

CNN contributor Van Jones tonight praised Republican Sen. Tim Scott's delivery of his rebuttal to President Biden's speech, but called the senator's overall message "nonsense" 

"I think they were smart to put Tim Scott up there, he's sort of the Biden of his party in that he comes across warm, authentic, he tells stories... the problem isn't the messenger, the messenger was great, but the message was nonsense," said Jones.  

In particular, Jones took issue with Scott's claim that "America is not a racist nation." 

"He lost a lot of African-Americans by the tens of millions when he said America is not a racist nation," Jones said. "You can say we are getting better, that we have come a long way ... but it is clear that this country is still struggling with racism."

"I thought he did himself a disservice by jumping that shark unnecessarily," added Jones.

Watch the moment:

10:59 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Fact check: Biden on his work on root causes of migration as vice president

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

President Biden said, "When I was vice president, the President asked me to focus on providing help needed to address the root causes of migration, and it helped keep people in their own countries instead of being forced to leave. The plan was working. But the last administration decided it was not worth it." 

Facts first: Biden didn’t specify the program, but it’s true that the Obama administration set up a program to provide safer pathways to the United States that was later terminated by then-President Trump.  

During his tenure as vice president, Biden led diplomatic efforts in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador after a growing number of unaccompanied minors from those countries began arriving in the US in 2014. The Central American Minors program was among the efforts.   

The program allowed children under the age of 21 with parents lawfully living in the US to seek entry into the country from their places of origin if they did not qualify for refugee protections but were still at risk of harm. It served as an alternative for parents who might otherwise turn to smugglers to bring their children to the US illegally. While it might not have helped “keep people in their own countries,” it was intended to keep them from being forced to try illegal, and dangerous, methods of immigration. 

There are mixed reviews on whether the program "was working," as Biden said, given the urgent situations some children were facing. In 2017, the Trump administration ended the program, making it difficult to assess its effectiveness since it had only been in place for a limited period of time.  

The Biden administration has since announced it is restarting the program.