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Highlights from Biden's first address to joint session of Congress

President Joe Biden addressed Congress at the Capitol on Wednesday night, saying, "America is on the move again."
Illustration of President Joe BIden, Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with the Capitol behind them.
Watch live: Special coverage of Biden's address to CongressChelsea Stahl / NBC News

President Joe Biden delivered his first joint address to Congress on Wednesday, outlining his vision for the country and speaking to what he sees as his administration's initial accomplishments as he approaches 100 days in office.

Biden told Congress that it must that "prove democracy still works" and that it "can deliver for the people," according to excerpts released by the White House before the speech.

The address, which lasted an hour and five minutes, was held in the House chamber and due to security concerns following the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and Covid-19 safety measures, only about 200 people were in attendance.

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-'Help is here': 100 days of the Biden doctrine

-Timeline of President Biden's first days in office

954d ago / 3:30 AM UTC
954d ago / 3:15 AM UTC

House Minority Leader McCarthy appears unimpressed


954d ago / 3:09 AM UTC

Five takeaways from Biden's first big speech to Congress

In his first big speech to Congress on Wednesday, President Joe Biden repeatedly spoke off the cuff and made a populist pitch to "forgotten" voters, urging lawmakers to pass his multitrillion-dollar economic agenda.

Biden sought to strike a balance between optimism and pragmatism, celebrating the progress in the battle against Covid-19, attributed to the widespread availability of vaccines and economic aid to struggling Americans, while emphasizing the magnitude of the task that lies ahead.

"America is on the move again," he said — but the country has "more work to do" to beat the coronavirus, put people back to work and restore faith in democracy. "We're at a great inflection point in history."

Click here for the five takeaways from Biden's speech.

954d ago / 3:01 AM UTC

Sen. Tim Scott delivers Republican response to Biden's speech

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., delivered the Republican response to Biden's address, criticizing the president's policies and Biden himself for not doing more to work with his party.

Biden and Democrats "are pulling us further apart," Scott said.

After a speech in which Biden urged support for his infrastructure and family proposals, which total about $4 trillion in spending, Scott said Biden's plans go far beyond the country's needs. He also called for bipartisan consensus on infrastructure and said the country needs to find common ground on race.

"From colleges to corporations to our culture, people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven't made any progress, by doubling down on the divisions we've worked so hard to heal," Scott said. "You know this stuff is wrong. Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country."

Similar to Biden, Scott called on Americans not to treat one another as "adversaries."

"We are not adversaries. We are family. We are all in this together. And we get to live in the greatest country on Earth," he said.

954d ago / 2:58 AM UTC

Democrat Mark Kelly says Biden's address lacked solutions for border crisis

Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., said in a statement afterward that Biden's joint congressional address lacked focus on immediately addressing the crisis at the southern border. 

"While I share President Biden's urgency in fixing our broken immigration system, what I didn't hear tonight was a plan to address the immediate crisis at the border," Kelly said. "And I will continue holding this administration accountable to deliver the resources and staffing necessary for a humane, orderly process as we work to improve border security, support local economies, and fix our immigration system."

Kelly, won a special election in November to serve out the rest of the late Sen. John McCain's term, faces re-election to a full term next year. 

Since he took office, Biden has faced a surge of migrant children at the border, putting the administration on the defense. 

Biden has said his policies were not the cause of the increase in children arriving at the border, as Republicans have claimed. He has instead blamed former President Donald Trump for neglecting Central America and for implementing policies that led to overcrowding in facilities at the border.

954d ago / 2:40 AM UTC
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954d ago / 2:28 AM UTC

Biden lingers in House Chamber to hobnob with lawmakers

After the end of his speech, Biden did something that comes very naturally to him — he spent several minutes on the House floor hobnobbing with lawmakers. 

He was seen speaking to other Democratic lawmakers, such as Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, and fist-bumped Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican in the House. He was also heard asking a lawmaker, "How's mom?" 

Even after the joint session was gaveled out, Biden, who had put his mask back on after the speech, was still in the chamber talking to people. 

Image: President Joe Biden speaks with lawmakers after his joint address to Congress at the Capitol on April 28, 2021.
President Joe Biden speaks with lawmakers after his joint address to Congress at the Capitol on Wednesday.Caroline Brehman / Pool via Getty Images
954d ago / 2:24 AM UTC

Fact check: Biden promotes new jobs created in first 100 days

Biden said "the economy created more than 1.3 million new jobs" in his first 100 days.

This appears to be true. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 916,000 in March and by 486,0000 in February. That's a total of 1.4 million.

While the gains under Biden are true, the same BLS data also showed that the economy had already begun recovering during Donald Trump's final months in office. According to the data, total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 638,000 from October through December, Trump's final full month in office.

The unemployment rate during that time ticked down to 6.7 percent from 6.9 percent. According to the latest data, through March, the unemployment rate is 6.0 percent.

954d ago / 2:18 AM UTC

Biden calls Jan. 6 attack 'existential crisis' for America

Biden bookended his speech by referring to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, which left several people dead. 

He called on lawmakers to show unity and consensus after the attack. 

"We have stared into an abyss of insurrection and autocracy — of pandemic and pain — and we the people did not flinch," he said. "At the very moment our adversaries were certain we would pull apart and fail, we came together."

He added: "We have to prove democracy still works. That our government still works — and can deliver for the people."

954d ago / 2:17 AM UTC

Fact check: Biden proposes restoring top tax bracket rate to George W. Bush level

Biden said he's proposing raising "the top tax bracket for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, those making $400,000 or more, back up to 39.6 percent."

"That's where it was when George W. Bush became president," Biden said.

This is technically true, but it changed early in Bush's presidency.

The top tax bracket, for families making more than $374,000, was, in fact, 39.6 percent when Bush became president in 2001. 

But in June 2001, just months into his presidency, he cut it, as part of a massive tax cut called the Economic Growth and Tax Reconciliation Relief Act, to 35 percent.

954d ago / 2:15 AM UTC

Photo: Military security near the Capitol during joint address

IMage: Military personnel stage near the Capitol as President Joe Biden makes his joint address to Congress on April 28, 2021.
Military personnel stage near the Capitol as President Joe Biden makes his joint address to Congress on Wednesday. Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images
954d ago / 2:13 AM UTC

Biden speaks for just more than an hour

That's a wrap for Biden's speech. He clocked in at about 1 hour and 5 minutes as he addressed a joint session of Congress.

954d ago / 2:13 AM UTC

Biden goes off script to warn Russia, China

Biden, who has been occasionally ad-libbing, went beyond his prepared remarks to offer some talk tough on foreign policy, swearing he would retaliate against Russia and pledging to counter China. 

"As we did when we extended the New START Treaty on nuclear arms — and as we're working to do on the climate crisis. He understands, we will respond," Biden said, adding the last sentence, which was not included his prepared remarks.

"I made very clear to President Putin that while we don't seek escalation, their actions have consequences," he added.

On China, he said the U.S. is in "a competition" with the communist-run country "to win the 21st century." 

Biden said he has told Chinese leader Xi Jinping that "we welcome the competition — and that we are not looking for conflict." But he added, "I made absolutely clear that I will defend American interests across the board."

954d ago / 2:10 AM UTC

Biden says Harris will lead rural broadband initiative

Vice President Kamala Harris will add another role to her portfolio, heading up efforts to expand rural broadband access, Biden announced.

Biden underlined the need for modern infrastructure investment, including broadband, as part of his American Jobs Plan, calling it "the largest jobs plan since World War II."

"It creates jobs connecting every American with high-speed internet, including 35 percent of rural America that still doesn't have it. It's going to help our kids and our businesses succeed in the 21st century economy. And I'm asking the vice president to lead this effort if she would," Biden said. "Because I know it will get done."

During her discontinued 2020 presidential campaign, Harris proposed an $80 billion investment in rural broadband to connect every household to high-speed internet by 2024. It included a $2 billion annual subsidy to bring broadband to small towns, contingent on making internet options affordable for low-income people.

Last week, Harris touted broadband during a trip to New Hampshire, and last month she tweeted a campaign moment from Iowa about the issue.

954d ago / 2:09 AM UTC

Fact check: Biden's numbers on Covid, seniors and vaccinations

"When I was sworn in, less than 1 percent of seniors were fully vaccinated against Covid-19," Biden said during his address. "One hundred days later, nearly 70 percent of seniors are fully protected. Senior deaths from Covid-19 are down 80 percent since January. Down 80 percent. And more than half of all adults in America have gotten at least one shot."

Some of these numbers appear to need a closer look.

It's technically true that very few seniors were fully vaccinated when he took office — vaccinations began only in mid-December in the U.S. — but about 34 million seniors are now fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's 64.5 percent of the nation's estimated 54 million seniors. It's also true that more than half of all adults in the U.S. have gotten one shot.

But senior deaths have fallen by around 50 percent, according to The Associated Press, citing the best available data, not 80 percent. Senior hospitalizations have fallen by more than 70 percent, as well.

The White House, responding to request from NBC News, pointed to this CDC data set that suggests senior deaths are down at least 85 percent.

954d ago / 2:06 AM UTC

Biden calls on Congress to pass George Floyd policing bill by next month

Biden invoked the murder of George Floyd to call on the nation to reckon with racism and other forms of discrimination. 

"We have all seen the knee of injustice on the neck of Black America. Now is our opportunity to make some real progress," Biden said, adding that the majority of police officers serve "honorably."

"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.

"We need to work together to find a consensus. Let's get it done next month, by the first anniversary of George Floyd's death."

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 60 percent of Americans say the country should do more to hold police accountable for mistreatment of Black people.

Biden also called on Congress to pass protections for LGBTQ Americans after Congress recently passed an anti-Asian hate crime bill. 

954d ago / 1:59 AM UTC

Biden says it's time to end the 'forever war' in Afghanistan

Biden, who announced this month that all American troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, said U.S. leadership "means ending the forever war in Afghanistan."

"Today we have service members serving in the same war as their parents once did," he said. "We have service members in Afghanistan who were not yet born on 9/11. War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multigenerational undertaking of nation-building."

"We went to Afghanistan to get the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11," he said. "We delivered justice to Osama Bin Laden, and we degraded the terrorist threat of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. After 20 years of American valor and sacrifice, it's time to bring our troops home."

954d ago / 1:52 AM UTC

Biden says trickle-down economics have 'never worked'

Biden, in addressing the accumulation of wealth by some of the richest Americans, said: "My fellow Americans, trickle-down economics has never worked."

Biden, who was speaking about the need to raise taxes on the wealthy and on corporations, noted that America's billionaires greatly grew their wealth during the pandemic.

"It's time to grow the economy from the bottom up and middle out," he said.

954d ago / 1:52 AM UTC

Biden says raising taxes on wealthy is how to pay for his plan; no GOP lawmakers applaud

Biden reiterated his commitment to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for his plan to shepherd the American economic recovery. 

"Look, I'm not out to punish anyone. But I will not add to the tax burden of the middle class of this country," Biden said. "They're already paying enough."

He said his administration will work to get rid of the loopholes that allow Americans who make more than $1 million a year to pay a lower rate on their capital gains and use the IRS to crack down on millionaires and billionaires who cheat on their taxes, among other measures. 

Notably, no GOP lawmakers applauded the plan. 

954d ago / 1:48 AM UTC
954d ago / 1:48 AM UTC

Biden calls for legislative effort to lower the cost of prescription drugs

Biden called on Congress to lower the cost of prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices — something that was not in his latest proposal, the American Families Plan.

"We all know how outrageously expensive they are," he said. "In fact, we pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world right here in America — nearly three times as much as other countries.

"Let's do what we've always talked about," he added. "Let's give Medicare the power to save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating lower prices for prescription drugs. ... We've talked about it long enough — Democrats and Republicans. Let's get it done this year."

Republicans did not clap or cheer during this part of Biden's address.

954d ago / 1:43 AM UTC

Biden goes off script to thank lawmakers for honoring late son

Biden strayed a bit from his prepared remarks while talking about the goal to end cancer by funding more research.

He recalled the passage of federal funding for cancer research at the end of his time as vice president, which was one of his major priorities in the Obama administration. 

In a moment of bipartisanship, he thanked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for suggesting that the previous bill's cancer provisions be named after Beau Biden, who died from cancer in 2015.

"You'll excuse the point of personal privilege. I'll never forget you standing, Mitch, and saying name it after my deceased son," Biden said.

954d ago / 1:40 AM UTC

Biden gives a shoutout to electric workers union

Biden, tying solutions to the climate crisis to the creation of new jobs, singled out by name the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union.

The shoutout appeared to be unscripted; it did not appear in prepared remarks from the White House. 

Biden weaved in the reference as he was talking about "electrical workers installing 500,000 charging stations along our highways." Biden eventually wound up on a common talking point from his 2020 campaign: "Unions build the middle class."

Unions — the IBEW, in particular — were a big part of Biden's campaign and among his earliest supporters at times he was struggling in the Democratic primaries. The IBEW endorsed Biden on Feb. 5, 2020, two days after he finished a distant fourth in the Iowa caucuses, when his campaign was in real jeopardy.

954d ago / 1:39 AM UTC

Fact check: Biden says most jobs created under his infrastructure plan wouldn't require a college degree

Biden, promoting his infrastructure plan, made a specific claim about the types of jobs his plan would create.

"Nearly 90 percent of the infrastructure jobs created in the American Jobs Plan don't require a college degree. Seventy-five percent don't require an associate's degree," he said.

The 75 percent figure is accurate, according to at least one study — a research paper published this year by a pair of academics at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Analyzing census data and Biden's infrastructure plan, the study concluded that the "proposal would create jobs at every education level, but the majority of infrastructure jobs (75 percent) will be for people with no more than a high school diploma and some non-degreed short-term training — those who have been harmed most by technology change and trade since the mid-1980s."

Those jobs, the study found, "will consist of both those directly related to infrastructure — including jobs for tradesmen, construction workers, and material moving and transportation workers — as well as downstream jobs only somewhat related to infrastructure, such as in offices and retail services."

954d ago / 1:38 AM UTC

Biden: 'Go get vaccinated America!'

954d ago / 1:34 AM UTC
954d ago / 1:27 AM UTC

Biden highlights cutting childhood poverty, hunger

Biden highlighted one of the benefits of his American Rescue Plan, which is its focus on childhood poverty and hunger. 

"Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we are on track to cut child poverty in America in half this year," Biden said. 

His Covid-19 relief bill restructured the child tax credit, giving a boost to low-income families. The Biden administration also announced this month that it will launch a summer food program to feed more than 30 million low-income children. 

954d ago / 1:20 AM UTC
954d ago / 1:20 AM UTC

Photo: A socially distanced standing ovation for the president

Image: President Joe Biden receives a standing ovation from a socially distanced Chamber before his joint address to Congress on April 28, 2021.
President Joe Biden receives a standing ovation from a socially distanced Chamber before his joint address to Congress on Wednesday. Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
954d ago / 1:14 AM UTC

Biden announced by first Black House sergeant-at-arms

There are a number of historic firsts tonight, including Army Maj. Gen. William Walker's leading President Biden into the House Chamber and announcing his entry. 

He is the first Black House sergeant-at-arms. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi picked Walker, then the head of the Washington, D.C. National Guard, for the post in March, and he was officially sworn in this week. The change of leadership follows the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot, after which the heads of security in both the House and the Senate resigned, along with the chief of the Capitol Police. 

954d ago / 1:11 AM UTC

Photo: First lady and second gentleman from the upper level

Image: Second gentleman Doug Emhoff claps as first lady Jill Biden waves before President Joe Biden's joint address to Congress at the Capitol on April 28, 2021.
Second gentleman Doug Emhoff claps as first lady Jill Biden waves before President Joe Biden's joint address to Congress at the Capitol on April 28, 2021.Michael Reynolds / Getty Images
954d ago / 1:10 AM UTC

Who Biden gave fist bumps to on his walk through the House chamber

Biden entered the chamber just after 9 p.m. and gave a series of fist and elbow bumps to lawmakers, as well as a half-hug with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Biden acknowledged a number of mask-clad lawmakers as he walked toward the podium. Recipients of fist bumps or other acknowledgments included Reps. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.; Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; and Chief Justice John Roberts.

954d ago / 1:04 AM UTC
954d ago / 1:01 AM UTC

Harris as she made her way through Rotunda

954d ago / 12:52 AM UTC

Biden arrives at the Capitol

The presidential motorcade departed from the South Lawn driveway at 8:30 p.m. and took a short trip up to the Capitol complex as Biden, approaching his 100th day in office, prepares to address the nation. 

This is the president's first trip to the Capitol since his inauguration and his first major address to the nation following the deadly Jan. 6 attack. He will preside over a historic moment with the first female vice president and the first female House Speaker. 

954d ago / 12:41 AM UTC

An elbow bump greeting as Harris takes her place next to Pelosi

Vice President Harris took her place next to House Speaker Pelosi in a historic moment before Biden arrives at the Capitol — and the pair greeted each other with an elbow bump

Harris led a group of Democratic lawmakers in the House, masked and wearing a pale yellow pantsuit.

Image: Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bump elbows before President Joe Biden's joint address to Congress at the Capitol on April 28, 2021.
Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bump elbows before President Joe Biden's joint address to Congress at the Capitol.Jim Watson / Getty Images
954d ago / 12:39 AM UTC

Photos: Social distancing limits crowd in House chamber

Image: Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., waits in her seat for President Joe Biden's joint address to Congress to begin at the Capitol on April 28, 2021.
Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., waits in her seat for President Joe Biden's joint address to Congress to begin at the Capitol on Wednesday.Jim Watson / Pool via Getty Images


Image: Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., gestures to Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., as they arrive for President Joe Biden's joint address to Congress at the Capitol on April 28, 2021.
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., gestures to Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., as they arrive for President Joe Biden's joint address to Congress at the Capitol.Andrew Harnik / AP
954d ago / 12:30 AM UTC

Cheney, McCarthy to sit near each other as the GOP leaders take different paths post-Jan. 6


Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., will be separated by seven seats from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., tonight. It will be interesting to see how the two top Republicans — Cheney is the No. 3 in the conference — react to Biden's address.

McCarthy and Cheney have taken opposite paths in laying out the future of the GOP after the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol. Cheney has wanted the party to put former President Donald Trump in the rearview mirror, while McCarthy has sought to remain close with him. 

When they are seated near each other, it will be easy to see whether they have any varying reactions to Biden's address — particularly if and when the president addresses the Capitol riot.

With the room much less filled than for a typical address, any individual reactions will be amplified.

954d ago / 12:05 AM UTC

Cruz calls it a 'privilege' to be attendance for speech, but still makes Biden basement crack


954d ago / 11:45 PM UTC

'Lost in the shuffle': Republicans battle around Biden — for now

Republicans have spent the past few months under President Joe Biden waging a campaign against "cancel culture" and locking horns with corporate America.

In state legislatures, GOP lawmakers have prioritized contentious bills to tighten voting access, crack down on protests, further limit abortion access and ban transgender athletes from school sports.

But in many of the battles the Republican Party has fought during Biden's early days in office, there's one person the GOP has largely ignored: Biden himself.

"It's not really a unified front against him," a Republican Senate aide said, adding that Republicans need to better link progressive policies and culture war issues that enthrall the GOP voter base to the president. "He sort of gets lost in the shuffle sometimes."

Click here to read the full story.

954d ago / 11:25 PM UTC

Biden to propose free community college. One GOP state already has a model program.

With Biden set to propose free community college, advocates for affordable higher education across the political spectrum are pushing a simple approach: Look to the states.

One state in particular — a Southern, reliably Republican one — has risen above the rest, lawmakers, education and policy think tanks said: Tennessee.

The Volunteer State's Tennessee Promise program, passed in 2014 by the GOP-controlled Legislature and signed into law by then-Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, offers two years of tuition-free community college or technical school to all high school graduates. An expansion of the program adopted in 2017, called Tennessee Reconnect, guaranteed two years of free community college or technical school to all adults in Tennessee who didn't already have degrees or credentials.

Click here for the full story.

954d ago / 11:15 PM UTC

A timeline of President Joe Biden's first 100 days in office

Illustration shows a timeline of photos marking key events during President Joe Biden's first 100 days in office.
Chris Burnett / for NBC News

President Joe Biden took the oath of office more than three months ago during a pandemic after a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol and the second impeachment of his predecessor.

And in the nearly 100 days since then, the nation has witnessed the impeachment trial and an acquittal, multiple mass shootings, passage of Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package, milestones and presidential promises in the battle against the coronavirus, an influx of unaccompanied migrant children at the border, a U.S. airstrike in Syria, a guilty verdict in the trial over the death of George Floyd and one formal presidential news conference, as well as one in-person meeting with a foreign leader.

Read the full timeline of what has happened during Biden's presidency as he approaches 100 days in the Oval Office.

955d ago / 10:51 PM UTC

Just one Supreme Court justice will be there for the speech

The Supreme Court says only Chief Justice John Roberts will be in attendance when President Biden speaks.

The court says that because of the pandemic, the chief justice was the only member of the court who was invited and that he plans to attend.

955d ago / 10:36 PM UTC

Limited number of lawmakers to attend Biden's address

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A limited number of lawmakers will be in the audience at Biden's first address to a joint session of Congress because of Covid-19 restrictions. 

A final determination of the number of attendees has not been made yet, but around 200 people total are likely to be in the House Chamber. For context, about 1,600 people are usually packed into the chamber for a joint session.

Both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., plan to attend, according to their offices. The total number of House Democrats and Republicans attending has not been disclosed, but it is estimated to be 25 from each side, including House caucus chairs. Here's a list of senators indicating they will attend, according to an NBC News tally:

Democratic senators

Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin), Michael Bennet (Colorado), Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), Ben Cardin (Maryland), Tom Carper (Delaware), Bob Casey (Pennsylvania), Chris Coons (Delaware), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nevada), Dick Durbin (Illinois), Dianne Feinstein (California), Kirsten Gillibrand (New York), Maggie Hasan (New Hampshire), Martin Heinrich (New Mexico), John Hickenlooper (Colorado), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), Patrick Leahy (Vermont), Joe Manchin (West Virginia), Ed Markey (Massachusetts), Bob Menendez (New Jersey), Jeff Merkley (Oregon), Jon Ossoff (Georgia), Alex Padilla (California), Jack Reed (Rhode Island), Jacky Rosen (Nevada), Bernie Sanders (Vermont), Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire), Tina Smith (Minnesota), Debbie Stabenow (Michigan), Chris Van Hollen (Maryland), Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) and Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island). 

GOP senators 

John Barrasso (Wyoming), Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee), Roy Blunt (Missouri), Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia), Ted Cruz (Texas), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Deb Fischer (Nebraska), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), Bill Hagerty (Tennessee), John Hoeven (North Dakota), Cindy Hyde-Smith (Mississippi), John Kennedy (Louisiana), Roger Marshall (Kansas), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio), Jim Risch (Idaho), Mitt Romney (Utah), Rick Scott (Florida), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), John Thune (South Dakota), Tommy Tuberville (Alabama) and, likely, Todd Young (Alaska). 

955d ago / 10:34 PM UTC
955d ago / 10:30 PM UTC

Inside the Capitol ahead of Biden's speech, stark differences from past years

Heightened security and social distancing have caused Biden's address to look and feel very different. The event is normally attended by over 1,000 people — this year, just 200 will be in the chamber.

  • The chamber itself looks completely different from past years. Chairs that have white papers sitting on them are blocked because of Covid-19 restrictions.
  • Every seat where a guest will be has a printed placard on top of it to show the assigned seats.
  • Security screening at the Capitol is extraordinarily tight — even for members of the House. In the past, members of Congress haven't had to go through security screening to attend joint addresses or State of the Union speeches — although it's consistent with the new rules of the House, which post-Jan. 6 require magnetometer screenings before people go onto the House floor.
  • House members also have to provide proof of vaccinations or negative Covid-19 tests to attend. Again, this is very unusual in a building that typically gives every prerogative to members of Congress. (NBC News has not yet been able to confirm whether senators are also being subjected to health and security screening; most members of the Senate have been vaccinated.) 
  • Staffers and security personnel are lined up waiting to go through health screening; members are being screened at different locations. The goal is to prevent crowding around the House floor.
  • Under normal circumstances, 1,600 people are in the chamber, and the hallways after the speech are packed. This year, just 200 people will be in the chamber. The Capitol itself feels like a ghost town in comparison to past addresses, although there are more people inside here than I think I've seen since the pandemic started.
955d ago / 10:02 PM UTC

Major focus of speech will be on racial justice

Even as most of the White House discussion this week has been about Biden's economic agenda, officials said viewers should expect racial justice, and specifically police reform, to be front and center.

Biden's first 100 days have been dominated by his administration's response to the coronavirus, which was also the primary focus of his campaign last year. But closely behind that was what he has said is a national reckoning over racial justice, and officials said he will discuss the moment that animated so much of that movement less than a year ago: the murder of George Floyd.

The connection Biden made with the Floyd family will be the centerpiece of that part of his speech, with Biden invoking the words of Floyd's daughter when he met her last summer: "Daddy changed the world." And he plans to make what an official said would be an "effusive push" for the legislation that bears Floyd's name, hoping to add momentum to bipartisan negotiations to push the House-passed bill through the Senate.

Click here for more on what to watch for in tonight's address. 

955d ago / 9:54 PM UTC

What to watch for in Biden's first address to Congress

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When President Joe Biden marks his 99th day in office by giving his first address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, he will lay out his goals for his next 100 days and beyond in front of a socially distanced chamber that will look starkly different from the one that greeted his predecessors.

And few know the night's usual scene better than Biden. After six full Senate terms and two as vice president, it's possible that no president has addressed Congress with more experience as a member of the audience: It has been 47 years since he sat in the House chamber for his first State of the Union address, listening to President Richard Nixon tell lawmakers, "One year of Watergate is enough."

Biden is expected to stick with the message he has been hammering away at for more than a year, focusing on vaccinations, infrastructure and child care — topics that have polled well with both Republicans and Democrats.

Click here for the full story.

955d ago / 9:52 PM UTC

In GOP response to Biden, Tim Scott to credit Trump for receding pandemic

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., will tout the pre-coronavirus economy and credit the Trump administration for the pandemic's receding in the Republican Party's official response to his speech to Congress.

"This administration inherited a tide that had already turned. The coronavirus is on the run!" Scott will say, according to excerpts of his prepared speech. "Thanks to Operation Warp Speed and the Trump administration, our country is flooded with safe and effective vaccines."

Scott will say the pre-Covid-19 era was the "most inclusive economy in my lifetime," which he will attribute to Republican policies, including tax cuts and criminal justice reform.

"Our best future won't come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams. It will come from you — the American people," he will say, according to the excerpts.

955d ago / 9:50 PM UTC

McConnell: Curious to hear how Biden 'squares his rhetoric with the administration's actions'

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., spoke on the Senate floor this morning ahead of President Biden's joint address to Congress tonight, saying, "I'll be curious to hear how the president tries to square his rhetoric with the administration's actions over the past 100 days."

McConnell hammered the administration over immigration to climate to troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. "Over a few short months, the Biden administration seems to have given up on selling actual unity in favor of catnip for their liberal base, covered with a hefty coat of false advertising."

"But it's not too late," McConnell stressed. "This White House can shake off its daydreams of a sweeping socialist legacy that will never happen in the United States. ... That is what the American people want."

955d ago / 9:41 PM UTC
955d ago / 9:39 PM UTC

White House releases speech excerpts; Biden will ask Congress to turn 'crisis into opportunity'

President Joe Biden will tell Congress on Wednesday night that it must that "prove democracy still works" and that it "can deliver for the people," according to excerpts released by the White House before the speech.

"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," he will say, according to the excerpts.

Biden will sell his $2.25 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan as one that would create "millions of jobs," predominantly for those without college degrees or associate's degrees. He'll call it "a blue-collar blueprint to build America."

955d ago / 9:17 PM UTC

Biden discusses whether democracy can work in 21st century


Biden sat down Wednesday with several representatives from the major news networks at a luncheon — a tradition in modern American politics — to discuss his speech and recap his first 100 days in office before his address to Congress tonight.

NBC News' Lester Holt attended the luncheon on behalf of the network. Much of the conversation was off the record, but on the record, the president said that he feels an urgency to shepherd America's recovery and that this moment in history will be written about as a crossroads. 

"About whether or not democracy can function in the 21st century. Not a joke. [Or] whether autocracy is the answer," he said, adding that Chinese President "Xi does not believe we can. That's what he's betting on."

He also said he didn't want his American Rescue Plan to fail. 

"I kept saying to the staff: 'We can't afford to lose out of the box. We cannot afford to lose this first effort. We got to make sure whatever we pick and what we do, we can't afford to lose,'" he said. 

955d ago / 9:02 PM UTC

Harris and Pelosi will be making history

The address will be the first time two women will be sitting behind the president for a formal speech to Congress: Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

It was just 14 years ago that Pelosi became the first woman to sit behind a president (George W. Bush) for an address to Congress.

Because of the pandemic, attendees will be required to wear masks, including Harris and Pelosi, per a source. 

955d ago / 8:12 PM UTC
955d ago / 8:11 PM UTC

Biden's first 100 days as consoler-in-chief


Joe Biden wanted a vacation. Instead, he got another funeral.

It was May of last year. Biden had recently secured the Democratic presidential nomination, and he wanted to take some time off the virtual campaign trail to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the death of his son Beau.

But then George Floyd was killed, the country exploded into a racial reckoning, and the man who has been dubbed "America's Grief Counselor," the "Emissary of Grief" and the "Designated Mourner" felt compelled, once again, to eulogize.

"Unlike most, you must grieve in public," Biden told Floyd's family at the funeral. "And it's a burden. A burden that is now your purpose."

Public grieving has been Biden's burden and purpose since he was first sworn into the Senate from a podium erected next to the hospital bed where his sons were convalescing from the car accident that had killed their mother and sister.

And it's the burden Biden now carries for the nation 100 days into being president of a country that has lost more than 570,000 people to a pandemic while martyrizing people like Floyd.

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955d ago / 8:10 PM UTC

Biden to propose free preschool, community college in address to Congress

President Biden will announce a roughly $1.8 trillion plan to invest in universal preschool, free community college and expanded access to child care in his joint address to Congress on Wednesday night, the White House said.

The proposal, which the White House calls the American Families Plan, would also increase taxes on the wealthy to offset the cost over 15 years. It is the second phase of Biden's two-part push to reshape the economy, following the $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, which he announced last month..

The American Families Plan would provide universal preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds, as well as two years of free community college. Both programs would be available regardless of income. The plan would also extend the expansion of the federal child tax credit in the American Rescue Plan through 2025 and permanently make the tax credit fully refundable.

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