New legislation, guests – and no designated survivor: What we know about Biden’s address to Congress

Don’t call it a State of the Union – president’s address to reflect on first 100 days and upcoming agenda

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 28 April 2021 09:12

Joe Biden will deliver a primetime address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, approaching his 100th day in office, highlighting an ambitious domestic agenda in the wake of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The high-security event at the Capitol – not technically a State of the Union address – will have Covid-19 restrictions in place, including an invite-only list of guests, with roughly 200 people in attendance.

Mr Biden worked on his remarks with adviser Mike Donilon, speechwriter Vinay Reddy and White House aides, press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken will attend the event, but the rest of the cabinet will be watching remotely – so there won’t be a “designated survivor” in the presidential line of succession in the event of a mass disaster.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will be the only member of the nation’s high court in attendance.

The president will walk down the centre aisle of the House chamber, wearing a mask, which he will remove when he delivers his speech.

The bulk of his remarks will cover the American Families Plan, but he will also discuss police reform, immigration, gun safety, Covid-19 and “getting Americans back to work”, Ms Psaki said.

“The president has been working on this speech for the last few weeks,” she said. “He’s been line editing it, meeting with his speechwriters, getting advice and counsel from senior advisers, checking in with members of his family.”

Mr Biden’s American Families Plan is expected to propose raising the capital gains tax rate from its current 20 per cent to 39.6 per cent for Americans earning $1m a year from investment income, which impacts roughly .3 per cent of taxpayers, or 500,000 households, economic adviser Brian Deese told reporters on Monday.

Revenue from those increases would reportedly be used to support paid family leave and childcare costs and make prekindergarten and community college free for all Americans. The White House will announce fuller details of the plan before the president’s remarks.

Mr Biden campaigned on bringing the capital gains tax rate more in line with the marginal rate on wages and salaries, which is currently at 37 per cent, effectively treating those earnings as income.

The plan will aim to bridge that gap to reduce inequities among working families who essentially end up paying a higher tax rate than investors.

“It is the dynamic that has led the president and others ... to do something about equalising the taxation of wealth and work in this country,” Mr Deese said.

Mr Biden’s pitch is his third in the administration’s three-pronged $4 trillion plan to revitalise the US economy and its workforce while boosting social services, along with his American Rescue Plan that was signed into law in March and the infrastructure-focused American Jobs Plan, which Congress is still drafting.

The proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure package would be funded by a corporate tax rate increase to 28 per cent.

There will be two responses to Mr Biden’s speech – including from a member of his own party.

Republican Senator Tim Scott will deliver the GOP’s rebuttal, while Democratic US Rep Jamaal Bowman – on behalf of the Working Families Party – will deliver the progressive response.

The organisation began issuing its response to former president Donald Trump following his speeches to Congress. It will continue the practice under the Biden administration.

Mr Biden is scheduled to deliver his remarks at 9pm EST.

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