Biden’s first joint address to Congress bridges partisan divide

Jessie Castellano, Staff Writer

On April 28, U.S. President Joe Biden held his first joint address to Congress marking his first 100 days in office. He spoke to a deeply divided room, as the nation’s partisan divide has grown sharply in the past year. Biden laid out his ambitious plans for a post-pandemic America, garnering nearly polar opposite reactions from Democrats and Republicans in the room during his presentation. This address was particularly unprecedented due to the size of the group in the room — usually filled with over 1,000 people, only 200 attended his speech. The address was much different from predecessor President Donald Trump in that it was more traditional, rather than unpredictable and unscripted.

A major takeaway from the speech was Biden’s certainty that his presidency will not be transitional to some future administration, but that he himself wants to transform the nation. This past year we saw one of the most severe economic recessions since the Great Depression, along with a devastating once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. He is looking to move the country from a divided nation to a strong force as it once was. Looking back on the challenges he faced in the first 100 days, he said, “America is on the move again,” prompting much applause from the chamber. 

One key change he emphasized was a return of big government. In the last 100 days, he passed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, followed by a $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill. He spent much time outlining another massive plan, American Families Plan, a $2 trillion plan to generate safety nets for citizens from preschool age to retirement.

Some other vital components were his framing of expanded federal programs, similar to U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s post-Depression New Deal, and the resurgence of America’s democracy abroad. Republicans have labeled some of Biden’s spending as “radical,” whereas Democrats believe such proposals as crucial for the nation’s future. He faces significant odds in passing proposals when both parties are strongly divided. He urges that Democrats and Republicans come together because “doing nothing is not an option.”

Lastly, this joint address made history that anyone could notice just by first glance: it was the first time any President was standing before two women, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris. Biden made a point of this to emphasize his solidarity, support and respect of women working in politics.

Biden’s speech was transparent, forceful and showed effort towards building harmony between parties. Although bipartisan cooperation is not the norm in Congress right now, it may come with time. Partisan peace, or lack thereof, may be one of Biden’s most significant obstacles in his Presidency. In his address, Biden illustrated how he will use the role of president to transform the economy. To do that, he will need support from both parties. His first joint address was a step in the right direction towards bipartisanship, and hopefully his presidency will allow for peace between Democrats and Republicans in the future.

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