Biden facing Congress: “America is moving forward again”

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US President Joe Biden praised Wednesday night to Congress the progress of his early term in office, painting a picture of an America that had weathered a series of unprecedented crises and responded with determination to the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Read also: Two women behind Biden for his speech to Congress, a first

• Read also: After 100 days, Biden confuses the skeptics

• Read also: 100 days of hope

On the eve of the symbolic milestone of his 100 days in power, the tenant of the White House declined his “Project for American families”, for a total amount of nearly 2000 billion dollars.

Describing a “country in crisis” when he came to power (health and economic crisis, but also the assault on the Capitol on January 6, “the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War”), Joe Biden posted his trust.

“After 100 days, I can tell the country: America is moving forward again,” he said.

For the first time in history, two women had taken their places behind the president, in the field of the cameras: Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Speaker of the House, and Kamala Harris, who in January became the first woman to become vice-president .

“It was about time!”, Launched the American president, to heavy applause, just before starting his speech.

The Democratic president has posed as a defender of the middle class, touting a massive investment plan to create millions of jobs for Americans who feel left out.

“I know some of you are wondering if these jobs are for you. You feel abandoned and forgotten in a rapidly changing economy, ”Biden said, in a thinly veiled allusion to his predecessor Donald Trump who championed the“ forgotten ”.

“Let me speak to you directly,” he added, promising that his investment plans would create “millions of jobs”. “Almost 90% of jobs in infrastructure (provided for in his plan presented last month) do not require university degrees,” he said.

And to repeat before Congress a formula pronounced a thousand times in the campaign: “It was not Wall Street that built this country.” The middle class built this country. And the unions have built the middle class ”.

The plan, which is already angering Republicans, is ambitious: $ 1 trillion in investments, especially in education, and $ 800 billion in tax cuts for the middle class.

To finance it, the Democrat proposes to cancel the tax cuts for the richest voted under Donald Trump, and to increase taxes on capital income for the wealthiest 0.3% of Americans.

With a promise hammered out in every tone: no American earning less than $ 400,000 a year will see their taxes increase.

This speech also marks the beginning of a bitter fight in Congress: while its plan to support the economy of 1900 billion dollars cleared the obstacle without any real difficulty, the discussions on its gigantic investment plans in infrastructure and education promises to be much more stormy.

“President Biden has presented himself in the campaign as a moderate, but I have difficulty finding so far the slightest decision that demonstrates a sense of moderation,” said Republican Senator Mitch McConnell ironically before the speech.

From the podium, the Democratic President praised the “extraordinary progress” made in the United States in recent months in the face of COVID-19, in particular the dazzling acceleration in the pace of vaccination.

Over 96 million people, or nearly 30% of the population, are considered fully vaccinated. And, in a decision loaded with symbols, health officials announced Tuesday that Americans who received the life-saving bites no longer needed to wear masks outdoors, except in the midst of a crowd.

If the presidential speech on Capitol Hill is a ritual that punctuates American political life, that of this year took place in a singular atmosphere, COVID-19 obliges.

Only some 200 people, compared to more than 1,600 usually, gathered in the prestigious chamber of the House of Representatives to attend. And elected officials were asked this year to present a list of “virtual” guests …

John Roberts was the only Supreme Court justice present. Foreign Minister Antony Blinken and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin were also on hand, but the rest of the government watched the speech on television.

Another break with tradition: it was not necessary this year to choose a “designated survivor”, a member of the government appointed each year not to attend the speech and who remains in an undisclosed place in order to be able to to take the reins of power in the event of an attack targeting the building.

The atmosphere was much less tense than during Donald Trump’s last speech in this chamber, in February 2020.

Before the speech, he had conspicuously avoided shaking hands with Nancy Pelosi. Once the speech was over, the latter had torn up her copy of the speech with a theatrical gesture.