When President Biden comes to a joint congressional session on Wednesday evening to deliver his speech, he will be masked when he enters a noticeably less crowded, more socially distant chamber of the House. Here Biden talks about COVID-19 vaccinations at the White House. Evan Vucci / AP hide caption
Evan Vucci / AP
Evan Vucci / AP
President Biden will address a joint congressional session for the first time on Wednesday evening, the eve of his 100th day in office. He’ll deliver the address later in his tenure than most presidents traditionally have, giving him a bigger window to draw from when trying to highlight early successes.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, speech will feel familiar and unique at the same time. Some traditions – such as the President’s passage through the Chamber of the House corridor – will be the same. The president is also masked when he enters a noticeably less crowded, socially more distant chamber.
Here’s what you need to know before speaking on Wednesday evening.
When is the address?
The speech is scheduled to begin around 9 p.m. ET. You can listen to NPR’s simulcast of the event on NPR.org, in the NPR One app, or on your local NPR member station. Find your station here.
NPR will also provide additional coverage and analysis of Biden’s address and Republican response on NPR.org.
What will Biden talk about?
Biden made one Number of promises before the 100-day mark, from the introduction of a vaccination schedule to the establishment of the USA as an international leader in the field of climate change. Wednesday’s speech will allow the president to reflect on his achievements – for example, his $ 1.9 trillion signature Coronavirus aid package through Congress and get 200 million Shots in the arms for his first 100 days.
But it can also focus on more difficult issues, including the increase in migrants on the southern border, which is an early test of its administration.
Biden is expected to use the address as a pitching opportunity his newly revealed American family plan, which focuses on childcare and education, largely paid for by higher taxes on wealthy Americans. That’s in addition to his $ 2.3 trillion infrastructure proposalwhat triggered debate among legislators about what should be included under the infrastructure umbrella.
At a briefing Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the American family plan would be the main focus of the address. But she said Biden will also talk about immigration, gun safety, pandemic and police reform. The speech will come just eight days after the death of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin found guilty in all respects for the death of George Floyd last year.
“”[Biden] served in the Senate for 36 years. He also sat by eight [years] as Vice President, and he certainly recognizes the important opportunity this presents, “said Psaki of the address.
How will this speech look different from the speeches of the last few years?
Traditionally, all congress members and their (often top-class) guests gather in the chamber of the house. However, with the existing COVID-19 protocols, only a fraction of the members will be present and will not be able to bring guests.
A total of around 200 people are expected to attend the speech instead of the around 1,600 people who are normally present. First Lady Jill Biden will be in the audience along with Vice President Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff. Chief Justice John Roberts will be the only Supreme Court Justice present, and while Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be present, most of the Cabinet will not.
There won’t be a First Lady Box, usually filled with attendees invited by the President’s family. And given the reduced nature of the event, Psaki confirmed Tuesday that there will be no “designated survivor” for the address. (A Survivor-Designate is an administrative officer who assigns an important address to the President in the event of a disaster.)
Another difference this year will be who sits behind the president. Tradition calls for the Vice President and Speaker of the House to appear behind the President when he speaks before a joint session of Congress. This year, it’s Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – the first time two women are in the frame. Biden will also be the first President to deliver the speech in front of a masked audience.
Who will provide the Republicans’ answer?
Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate, will deliver the republican answer. Scott was central to the negotiations in Congress Police legislation and revealed a plan last year that would reduce, but not ban, the use of chokeholds.
“We face serious challenges on several fronts, but I am more confident than ever about America’s promise and potential,” Scott said in a statement. “I look forward to having an honest conversation with the American people and sharing the Republicans’ optimistic vision of expanding opportunities and empowering working families.”
While the answer is often an opportunity to raise the speaker’s political profile, Scott has said that after his re-election race in 2022, he has no plans to run for office again.